Would it be accurate to say that you see your work as a way of analyzing the things that you find fascinating, or as a recording of certain obsessions? Where I see it most in your work is in the way that your characters become obsessed with articulating something as accurately as possible.
The stories come right out of whatever is most pressing and urgent and interesting to me. I don’t ever feel compelled to write—I don’t feel like I have to go in there and knock out five pages. I think if I did, the subjects wouldn’t be as close to me as they are. I only write when I’m very moved by something, so they do relate to my interests, but there is always a little distance, because they are made things. So I guess the distance that I need to put between me and them sometimes comes about through the creation of this narrator who’s not quite me.
In “Cows” we move from morning to evening, and one of my favorite stories of yours, “St. Martin,” begins with a real hook: “What happened to the dog.” Do you think that plot structure as a movement from one event to another is an element of fiction you are retaining, or is that something that’s common to real life as well?
I definitely have that structure, but when I was composing “Cows” there was no order at all; it was just whatever I saw that day. And when I came to arrange it, the sections had to be in some kind of order, so it was morning to evening and also fall, winter, spring. I definitely didn’t want the seasons to be scattered at random. With “St. Martin,” it’s chronological, the story of the nine months they were caretakers, but it’s also true that the most dramatic thing that happens and the most compelling thing that happens is the disappearance of the dog, and that did serve as a focus for the story. So yes, real life does have little plots, and it’s a lot of fun to take pieces of real life and select from them and then organize them according to a plot. We have plots going on all the time, and all we have to do is isolate them.
(Για το διήγημα “St. Martin” δείτε κι εδώ.)
Τρία διηγήματα της Ντέιβις (από τη συλλογή Varieties of Disturbance του 2007):
A Man from Her Past
I think Mother is flirting with a man from her past who is not Father. I say to myself: Mother ought not to have improper relations with this man “Franz”! “Franz” is a European. I say she should not see this man improperly while Father is away! But I am confusing an old reality with a new reality: Father will not be returning home. He will be staying on at Vernon Hall. As for Mother, she is ninety-four years old. How can there be improper relations with a woman of ninety-four? Yet my confusion must be this: though her body is old, her capacity for betrayal is still young and fresh.
Dog and Me
An ant can look up at you, too, and even threaten you with its arms. Of course, my dog does not know I am human, he sees me as dog, though I do not leap up at a fence. I am a strong dog. But I do not leave my mouth hanging open when I walk along. Even on a hot day, I do not leave my tongue hanging out. But I bark at him: “No! No!”
I don’t know if I can remain friends with her. I’ve thought and thought about it—she’ll never know how much. I gave it one last try. I called her, after a year. But I didn’t like the way the conversation went. The problem is that she is not very enlightened. Or I should say she is not enlightened enough for me. She is nearly fifty years old and no more enlightened, as far as I can see, than when I first knew her twenty years ago, when we talked mainly about men. I did not mind how unenlightened she was then, maybe because I was not so enlightened myself. I believe I am more enlightened now, and certainly more enlightened than she is, although I know it’s not very enlightened to say that. But I want to say it, so I am willing to postpone being more enlightened myself so that I can still say a thing like that about a friend.