Varieties of Disturbance

Varieties of Disturbance



The Pequod Review:

Lydia Davis is an intelligent writer whose primary form is the short story — often extremely short stories, sometimes only one sentence or one paragraph long. Here for example is the entirety of her excellent story “For Sixty Cents,” which appears in Varieties of Disturbance, her fourth collection of short stories:

You are in a Brooklyn coffee shop, you have ordered only one cup of coffee, and the coffee is sixty cents, which seems expensive to you. But it is not so expensive when you consider that for this same sixty-cents you are renting the use of one cup and saucer, one metal cream pitcher, one plastic glass, one small table, and two small benches. Then, to consume if you want to, besides the coffee and the cream, you have water with ice cubes and, in their own dispensers, sugar, salt, pepper, napkins, and ketchup. In addition, you can enjoy, for an indefinite length of time, the air-conditioning that keeps the room at a perfectly cool temperature, the powerful white electric light that lights every corner of the room so that there are no shadows anywhere, the view of the people passing outside on the sidewalk in the hot sunlight and wind, and the company of the people inside, who are laughing and turning endless variations on one rather cruel joke at the expense of a little balding red-headed woman sitting at the counter and dangling her crossed feet from the stool, who tries to reach out with her short, white arm and slap the face of the man standing nearest to her.

And here is her short story “Hand:"

Beyond the hand holding this book that I’m reading, I see another hand idle and slightly out of focus — my extra hand.

The remaining entries involve similar Proust-like explorations of everyday objects and situations, and prove that virtually any subject can form the basis of a good story.