Beginning THE COLLECTED STORIES OF LYDIA DAVIS: Story 1 is Called “Story”

Here’s how the story (“Story”) begins:

I get home from work and there is a message from him:  that he is not coming, that he is busy.  He will call again.  I wait to hear from him, then at nine o’clock I go to where he lives, find his car, but he’s not home.  I knock at his apartment door and then at all the garage doors, not knowing which garage door is his —  no answer.  I write a note, read it over, write a new note, and stick it in his door.  At home I am restless, and all I can do, though I have a lot to do, since I’m going on a trip in the morning, is play the piano.  I call again at ten forty-five and he’s home, he has been to the movies with his old girlfriend, and she’s still there.  He says he’ll call back.  I wait.  Finally I sit down and write in my notebook that when he call me either he will then come to me, or he will not and I will be angry, and so I will have either him or my own anger, and this might be all right, since anger is always a great comfort, as I found with my husband.  And then I go on to write, in the third person and the past tense, that clearly she always needed to have a love even if it was a complicated love.  He calls back before I have time to finish writing all this down.  When he calls, it is a little after eleven-thirty.  We argue until nearly twelve.  Everything he says is a contradiction:  for example, he says he did not want to see me because he wanted to work and even more because he wanted to be alone, but he has not worked and he has not been alone.  There is no way I can get him to reconcile any of his contradictions, and when this conversation begins to sound too much like many I had with my husband I say good-bye and hang up.  I finish writing down what I started to write down even though by now it no longer seems true that anger is any great comfort.

I call him back five minutes later to tell him that I am sorry about all this arguing, and that I love him, but there is no answer.  I call again five minutes later, thinking he might have walked out to his garage and walked back, but again there is no answer.  I think of driving to where he lives again and looking for his garage to see if he is in there working, because he keeps his desk there and his books and that is where he goes to read and write.  I am in my nightgown, it is after twelve and I have to leave the next morning at five.

This is why writing is so fantastic.  You get bummed by something, you sit down and write about it.  If you can squeeze even one paragraph from the experience, you are still OK.

But, seriously, how great was the voice in “Story”? And as for the neurosis:  literature is filled with shrines — no, entire monuments — dedicated to neurotic behavior.  Self thinks it is interesting that writers who see neurosis so clearly are never themselves thought to be neurotic — in fact, they are almost always described as being “honest, insightful and brave.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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