Dear Lydia Davis,
All signs pointed to me not ever buying your book, “The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.” For starters, the book was bright orange. If you knew me, you would immediately understand that I don’t have a thing for color. It confuses me and sends a slight tingle to the gut of my stomach that resembles anxiety or nausea. However, I picked your book up at the McNally Jackson bookstore in Soho, New York. You are familiar with the bookstore since I have missed you speaking there – by just a week or two of being in town, in which I cursed myself for my horrendous timing.
“Do you think she will be back when I am in town next?” I asked the bookstore manager.
“I am not sure, when will you be in town next?” he asked me.
I wasn’t sure either.
I remember when I picked it up. It is a short book in height, large book in width and resembled the exact size of a brick, which I found to excite me for one reason or another. The pages were frayed at the end, something I am usually not a fan of since it reminds me of my childhood books that employed the same method – a method I assumed was originated to encourage kids to read. The binding was spectacular and the font size was perfect and the pages turned over quite smoothly. So, I bought it. I supposed I could use a little color in my life.
I started reading it on the Metro North train back to Bronxville, where I was attending Sarah Lawrence at the time. Sarah Lawrence was out of session and I was lodging alone in the house where my friends and I lived during the school year. I had landed a Summer internship in Manhattan working at an independent magazine and decided to come back to the fresh air to sleep. Also, it was cost effective to not have two rents to pay.
I remember when I read through the first few short stories – totaling at 11 pages – and got to “Liminal: The Little Man.” I read the first paragraph:
“Lying there trying to sleep, a little light coming through the curtain from the street, she planned things and remembered things and sometimes just listened to sounds and looked at the light and the dark. She thought about the opening and closing of her eyes: that the lids lifted to reveal a scene in all its depth and light and dark that had been there all along unseen by her, nothing to her since she did not see it, and then dropped again and made all that scene unseen again, and could anytime lift and show it and anytime close and hide it, though often, lying sleepless, her eyes shut, she was so alert, so racing ahead with what she was thinking, that her eyes seemed to her to be wide open behind the closed lids, bugged, glassy, staring, though staring out only into the dark back of the closed lids.”
And suddenly, my eyes shot off the book and straight ahead to the almost patent green and blue vinyl seat in front of me, images of outside Manhattan flying past my peripheral view. I suddenly understood who I was.
I had always wondered why I hated writing long stories. Oh, I apologize. I have not introduced myself in the sense that I love to write and had been trying to find my “writing identity” for quite some time. I loved a good sentence and a non-sensical story but I had never been able to write past five pages. I didn’t see a reason to. Snapshots of scenes were way more powerful than the entire picture.
And anyways, you made it quite clear to me then. Flash fiction, micro fiction, short fiction – whatever the hell you want to call it – was real and you, Lydia Davis, did it the best.
I have always felt a connection to you, regardless of the fact that you don’t know that. You helped shape my writing identity and allowed me to understand the nature of the style I was so drawn to. You also, as I rode the Metro North back to Bronxville to an empty house, made me feel less alone.
Making another human being feel less alone is a feat I hold in high regard, Lydia Davis. One of the highest feats in fact. I also love the way you capture loneliness.
So, moving on, I suppose I have tried to track you down over the years. I found your email when you were teaching at a university in New York and drafted so many different versions of what I could send you. I didn’t want you to think I was stupid, unintellectual, a fangirl, a no talent stalker. So, I never pressed send. I can no longer find that email address again and have accepted that I have perhaps missed my open window. You do not have as much as a website.
I never lose my favorite books but I have lost yours three times. I find it to be a blessing when I lose it, since I have to haul over to the bookstore, repurchase it and experience it all over again. You can see why I would love that, right?
I took a literature class once that had us reading “Madame Bovary” by Flaubert, translated by you. I felt more connected to you than Flaubert while reading. I was reading something of Lydia Davis’ mind, wasn’t I?
One last thing: Your bio pictures have a cat in them and I regretfully have to confess that I am not a fan of cats. However, if you should ever want to meet, I will make an exception and you can bring your cat. I hope that will make you happy.
Thank you Lydia Davis. If I never get to meet you and thank you in person, I hope my written word is enough.