August 27: “The Dog Hair” by Lydia Davis

Happy Saturday, Story366! Today I’m writing about Lydia Davis and her book, Can’t and Won’t. As Lydia Davis is a great practitioner of the short short/flash fiction/micro fiction/sudden fiction genre, in the spirit of the form, I think I’m going to make this short, but still include an anecdote, an intro, a summary, a critique, a snarky joke, and a wrap-up, as I do most days, so here goes … Take a look at the cover below: For a long time, I thought the actual, official  title of this book was … because, they said, I was lazy. What they meant by lazy was that I used too many contractions, for instance, I would not write out in full the words and cannot and will not, but instead contracted them to can’t and won’t. I believed it so much that when I ordered this book from the bookstore here on campus, I actually wrote all that out on the order slip. Since then I’ve heard people refer to it as Can’t and Won’t, (out from Farrar, Straus and Giroux) which is much more reasonable, but I have a fantasy that when Davis refers to this book in public, she says that long clause as the title, each and every time, even if she names the book like twenty times in a lecture or reading. (The irony being, of course, that this title would be longer than many of her stories.) … I could have written about almost any of the stories in Can’t and Won’t—there are over a hundred—and I’ve all of them—and I even thought about writing about one of the longer stories (there are a few), but since this is Lydia Davis, I’ll stick to one of the shorter pieces, many of which weigh in at a fraction of a page. “The Dog Hair” is probably my favorite—who doesn’t love dogs?—and is about this family who loses a dog, but still finds its hair around the house. I won’t go into any further detail, lest I spoil it, but it’s a satisfying and surprising ending, all fitting into a couple of sentences, what Davis is so good at, what she’s known for. “Economy,” I bet they call her down at the racquet club, “Economy Davis,” for her great short short fiction and her efficient backstroke. … I’ve long been a fan of Lydia Davis—remember, my three books are predominantly made up of shorts—and ate up this collection, will continue to, over and over. She’s one of the best, if not the best at the form, and … because, they said, I was lazy. What they meant by lazy was that I used too many contractions, for instance, I would not write out in full the words and cannot and will not, but instead contracted them to can’t and won’t. is as great as anything she’s ever done. I worship her.

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