This was the first book Caleb ever bought me and how I confirmed that he was marriage material. It kind of leaves me at a loss; these stories take the lid off a world a lot of us would never see. They left me longing for her voice in everything I’ve read since. So I don’t overstay my welcome, I’ll leave you with Lydia Davis’s words about this collection.
“I have always had faith that the best writers will rise to the top, like cream, sooner or later, and will become exactly as well-known as they should be–their work talked about, quoted, taught, performed, filmed, set to music, anthologized. Perhaps, with the present collection, Lucia Berlin will begin to gain the attention she deserves.”
“Whenever Ter read a book, rarely—he would rip each page off and throw it away. I would come home, to where the windows were always open or broken and the whole room would be swirling with pages, like Safeway lot pigeons.”
Possibly the best poems ever written, but certainly the best I’ve ever read. They are delightfully and specifically strange, equally charming and disorienting. Exactly as it should be.
I would probably adopt this book as a political manifesto, but maybe I shouldn’t talk about that in my new, impartial, internet space.
“But I have to say this in defense of humankind: In no matter what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got here. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were already all these games going on that could make you act crazy, even if you weren’t crazy to begin with. Some of the crazymaking games going on today are love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf, and girls’ basketball.”
I read this after watching the movie (like the rest of the liberal female population aged 17-27.) It reads as Elio’s stream-of-consciousness, the diary of a teenage boy, which is as painful as you might assume.
But it is all worth it for the end, which has the power to erase all doubt you have about the book, the movie, and potentially even yourself.
“We’ll speak about two young men who found much happiness for a few weeks and lived the remainder of their lives dipping cotton swabs into that bowl of happiness, fearing they’d use it up, without daring to drink more than a thimbleful on ritual anniversaries.”
“There are also men in the world. Sometimes we forget, and think there are only women—endless hills and plains of unresisting women. We make little jokes and comfort each other and our lives pass quickly. But every now and them, it is true, a man rises unexpectedly in our midst like a pine tree, and looks savagely at us, and sends us hobbling away in great floods to hide in the caves and gullies until he is gone.”
Not only did Lydia Davis basically invent a new genre of fiction, “flash fiction,” she’s also an acclaimed French translator. Like, Madame Bovary and Swann’s Way level acclaimed. Just thinking about her also existing in the world is enough to fill a morning.
These stories stop me cold and then pick me up again. I’ve drawn stars on the corners of all my favorites so whenever I’m sad or uninspired or lost I can just flip straight to them. They make everyday life seem so striking that it’s hard to imagine we’re just living it without event.
“In late August a baby was born, or, as it seemed to me, a puma moved into my apartment, a near-mute force, and then I noticed it was December.”
Rivka Galchen has the kind of name that gets stuck in your head for the rest of your life. I regularly find myself whispering it when I’m stuck in traffic or trying to do math in my head or walking to get the mail. This book has the scattered, wry puzzle piece, anecdotal feel of Lydia Davis, which you either love or you don’t really get. I would rather die a slow and painful death than deprive the world of Lydia Davis, so one can assume I fall on the love side.
So the book is about her baby, the puma, and other babies, and literature, and a lot of other things. It is good.
Rating: I originally started to put this book up here because Caleb told me that I couldn’t have all books that were rated 10/10, I had to do some that I liked less. Unfortunately, upon further consideration, this book is also a 10/10.
I think I set a personal record for taking photos of pages of books with this one. She says things about marriage that we can’t even admit to ourselves, and things that we need to whisper to ourselves every morning when we wake up. “‘The hardest lesson in a marriage,’ says my friend Asia, ‘is understanding the truth of the other person, believing in your heart that they are as real as you are, and their feelings matter as much. We all think that when something is wrong it will feel wrong to us, but that’s the biggest lie. So many things that your partner will see as betrayal will feel to you like nothing. One of the biggest challenges of marriage is to acknowledge that your own feelings aren’t the end of the story. We have to hold so many realities at once: here’s me, here’s you, here’s us, here’s the rest of the world.”