‘What I Feel’ by Lydia Davis

A theory: the contemporary short story is defined by the opposing poles of two genius writers. Alice Munro is the great expansionist, Lydia Davis the great minimalist. It’s hard to choose one of Davis’s stories: they somehow work on you together, like the notes of a lovely dissonant chord. For instance the page-long ‘What I Feel’ – which teases a thought about solipsism almost to death – is enriched when read alongside the somewhat longer ‘Therapy’ and the even shorter ‘Head, Heart’. The best way to read Davis, I think, is to start one of her collections – or, even better, the Collected Stories – at the beginning and to finish, flushed and exhilarated, at the end.

First published in Conjunctions 17, Fall 1991, and available to read here. Collected in Almost No Memory, FSG, 1997, and The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, FSG/Hamish Hamilton, 2009

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