Here, read these: https://www.theparisreview.org/fiction/6230/five-stories-lydia-davis
Now you’ve read a Lydia Davis story.
But also, if you read my headline, you’ve already read a Lydia Davis story before.
I am surprised that I liked this book. It is not a book designed for me to like, and maybe that’s because so many books like this, with very very short short stories are simply bad versions of what Lydia Davis does well.
Because her background is not entirely in short fiction and because I really do respect her translation work, I give her a lot of credit. Also, I listened to the audiobook of this collection which helped a lot because I didn’t rush through them or get frustrated by the quickly turning pages as I can other times. The whole book took 18 hours and was broken into 3 sections (which I listened to at 1.75 speed). So it went quickly and went well, and it wasn’t frustrating.
The stories range from a version of what you see above, but sometimes they are longer. Some of the longer ones are SO good. There’s a brilliant story about French Translation told in the vein of a French lesson, but is actually a murder mystery. There’s a bunch of stories that really capture singular moments of thought or feeling, like a poem might, but also they might also be mini-epics. In terms of the audiobook, some of them are 30 thirty seconds to a minute long. Some are as long as 40 minutes, which if you read audiobooks regularly you know is STILL not that long.
So when it comes down to it, you’re committing to 180 or so stories. Not all are memorable, but many are.
My own criticism is that in the audiobook, they introduce each story and each reader and then close out the story….every single time. And it gets old.
It’s not Lydia Davis’s fault though.