I suppose one reason I’m not keen on Lydia Davis appending the word ‘dream‘ to some of her very short stories is that as soon as I see the word I start wondering what the story is telling me about Lydia Davis – what she’s like, her appetites and fears. Taking up an amateur psychoanalytical position restricts my reading. If she didn’t do this I could reflect upon the meanings of the text across a wider landscape that contained Lydia Davis but also spoke to the society, the culture, the world and the wishes and discontents ranged therein.
When someone tells you their dream it is because they want to tell you and any reaction you might offer is, if not welcome, then at least sought. As soon as such a contract is formed, tacitly or not, then the binoculars can be exchanged for the magnifying glass and a conversation can unfold. It’s quite hard to do this with a stranger although this seems not to deter palmists, mediums and tarot readers, whose declarations, depending on where you stand on this, might be taken with a pinch of salt.
I should say that I’m enjoying Lydia Davis’ very short stories and while I know nothing about her, I think we might get on at an occasion or around a table. I would be flattered if she then said “There’s this dream I had.” I might reply “I’m all ears!” And she’d tell me then she’d say “What do you reckon?’ But that’s different. I could say something like “Well, Lydia, clearly you are worried that you will not stop being sad,” (that’s just an example, I do not think that Lydia Davis is necessarily sad) after which I might continue “…as we all are in these fraught times in which all that seemed solid is become soil…” Or I might in fact think to myself “Well, she would probably prefer a more personalised response than a pontification on the state of the world from her new acquaintance.” And I’d reserve the broader view for a short story by Lydia Davis that I would read in a room or on a bus, savouring the compactness the drollery the oddness of the ordinary and the matter of factness of the bizarre.
Afternote: I just found an interview with Lydia Davis in The Paris Review which more or less renders the post above obsolete. At one point Davis says ‘In the new book, making stories out of those Flaubert letters or out of people’s dreams, I’m just very moved by the beauty of writing itself. The beauty of a sentence in another person’s writing. Or the beauty of a very simple sentence when somebody is telling me a dream.’
This strongly suggests that Davis sometimes transcribes other people’s dreams and then appends the word ‘dream‘ to them. It seems probable that all the stories followed by ‘dream‘ are other people’s dreams. Damn. This weakens my argument quite a lot but does not wholly extinguish it. I hope.