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Uploaded by : Benjamin Gottlieb | 11/07/09

We know only four boring people. The rest of our friends we find very interesting. However, most of the friends we find interesting find us boring: the most interesting find us the most boring. The few who are somewhere in the middle, with whom there is reciprocal interest, we distrust: at any moment, we feel, they may become too interesting for us, or we too interesting for them.

  • Title:
    Boring Friends
  • Artist:
    Lydia Davis
  • Year:
    2001
  • Description:
    Short story from Lydia Davis' 2001 short story collection Samuel Johnson Is Indignant, published in hardcover by McSweeney's and in paperback by Picador.
  • Disciplines and Movements:
    LITERATURE and Fiction
  • Themes and Tags:
    no themes

“This presents itself, in a sense, as an "easy" story. It is not, as it turns out, an easy story, but it makes it difficult to appreciate this. Initially the story struck me as something half-finished, innocuous in its Seinfeld-esque humor; surely, I could identify with the articulately, artlessly phrased concerns of its pluralized narrator, but it felt too self-conscious in its attempt at a clever exposition of the logic behind these concerns. And the story ends before it "does" anything with this observation, not yet quite an anecdote; I think that what had, in part, led me to being annoyed me about the story was a blurb quoted on the book jacket in which a critic referred to her as "an erudite stand-up comedian." I had approached the book as if it were, essentially, a collection of high-minded jokes; and certainly there are jokes, but it is not a collection of them: as I should have understood, it is a collection of stories. And the story here is oblique and hidden: there are many hints at what is "behind" the story – the plural narrator is just wonderful, the "we" not actually signifying a dual narration but rather just a colloquial combination, on the singular narrator's part, of him- or herself with the other half of what is likely a marriage or coupleship of some sort; this, more than anything else, leads the reader into considering further who the narrator may be, something that would not happen as readily were the narration singular – but what I find most poignant and daring about the story is how essentially boring it is. While the story is not, as I had first thought, a simple, approachable, universally identifiable, and uninteresting piece of observational humor, it is observational humor that the narrator had set out to make, and thus Davis' story is rather a story about the story presented herein than the story presented by the prose; this just breaks my heart: the narrator is so recognizable in his or her eagerness to make a clever joke but is ultimately "undone," in a sense, by Davis' injection of minor "hints" at the story beyond the narrator's story; the wonderfully too-specific "only four" is perhaps the greatest example of these. I love how Davis so fearlessly couches her real intentions behind or within the prose of her stories; the "true stories" exist outside of the prose, but Davis makes a selfless artistic gamble in presenting her stories this way. "Boring Friends" is a masterfully calibrated story, willing to sacrifice to some its tremendous effect in the pursuit of so beautifully capturing someone who may, really, just be a kind of boring person.”
Posted over 4 years ago
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