Your Sabbatical Is Burning

Lydia Davis - "A Position at the University" (3'40" with intro; 1'08" w/o intro here). The quandary into which the narrator of this very short story momentarily falls, then gamely reasons herself out of, has to do with the lack of "fit" between the image conjured by the file-cabinet gray title phrase (repeated seven times in seventy seconds) and her entrenched self-conception. Am I that? Only that? Really that? she asks, as a stranger's gaze falls upon her, visiting annihilation upon everything about her that does not conform to the role she is assumed to fill, the role she does—obviously to the other even if startlingly to herself—in fact fill. Whether her recourse to negativity, her utopic (or at any rate socially impossible) plea for "complete description," is warranted (after all, every individual has a right to non-identity vis-à-vis his or her subject position) or partakes of self-delusion (after all, that right is frequently abused: pace liberalism) can only be decided in situ, and Davis's narration carefully pares away any evidence thereof. The brevity of the manifest text evokes a latent text left largely in shadow: the narrator knows "truths" about herself that would, she says, strike an observer as "incompatible" with her "position," but those truths, and the "sort of person" they might show her to be, remain obstinately undisclosed. • In the PennSound clip, Davis appends an anecdote that replicates the structure of the story while supplying a different set of contextual cues (Christmas, a recording of the Messiah, a judgmental friend's phone call). What the ad-lib lacks is the compulsion to repeat signaled by the hendecasyllabic refrain, so puzzling, so weirdly depleting, so susceptible to minute variations in inflection in the voiced text.

Transcript of audias. More Davis at PennSound. Lydia Davis week at McSweeney's. Webpage devoted to Davis. Albany Times Union story on Davis's MacArthur grant. Paul Lafarge on "the pleasures of Lydia Davis's precise Proust." • Today's heading courtesy New Pornographers/Destroyers. • Lipstick xml feed. Tracklist to date.

Monday -- 12 June 2006 -- permalink

The Lipstick of Noise is a product of the Third Factory • Inspired by the music blogs • And by Paul Blackburn's reel-to-reel deck. Intending to make good use of PENNSound and other sources of digital audio files of poetry • Comments welcomeXML.