story: “Eating Fish Alone”
author: Lydia Davis
where: Home, in bed
note: In The New Yorker, Davis’ eyes have been described as “blue milk glass”…and this sentence could almost constitute the length of an average story by Davis. In truth, I’ve read several dozen of her stories this week, but they are so short, it feels unconscionable to list them all here individually.
P.S. Thank you Isabella Simonetti for the book.
a line: “‘Most people don’t eat them,’ she said matter-of-factly. I thought of the waste, and the care with which the chef prepared, over and over again, the vegetables that no one ate.”
theme(s): Sustainability, consumption, solitude, eating out
story: “The Excursion”
author: Joy Williams
where: Dining hall on Saadiyat
note: What a fascinating story construction; Williams moves seamlessly in and out of childhood and adulthood of the protagonist.
a line: “Jenny lies a little. She is just a little girl, a child with fears. She fears that birds will fly out of the toilet bowl. Starlings with slick black wings. She fears trees and fishes and the bones in meat. She lies a little but it is not considered serious.’”
theme(s): Childhood, Sexuality, Truth
story: Are They Vampires, or Are They Just Chinese?
author: C Pam Zhang
note: from an interview about the story, Zhang said, “What’s creepy is my being haunted for years by the pressure to write a Sad Immigrant Story.”
a line: “We wear long driving gloves even when we don’t drive. And when we do: roof down, swinging over curbs, black hair flung back like silk, like bat wings, like flags snapping beware in language you’ll never understand.”
story: Cities I’ve Never Lived In
author: Sara Majka
where: Fiumicino Airport, Roma
note: As someone who has traveled places grand and bland alone, this story felt sometimes like a mirror.
a line: “I thought that those few people passing out food—with their hands in little plastic gloves, and their cross behind them—should not be our major defense against this kind of poverty; as a defense it felt hopeful, frail, and largely hidden.”
bonus line: “I said that art can end up being compassionate—because you’re trying to communicate to people and that’s a compassionate act—but making it is often unkind.Artists take images and stories from people without telling them, and artists are doing it for their own ends, or for the ends of art. Even if they have morals or set limits, they are still taking from people.” …I think artists know what she means.