Story A Day: “Five Stories From Flaubert” by Lydia Davis

shortstorymonth320x320Today, I happened upon “Five Stories From Flaubert” by Lydia Davis, in the November 2010 issue of Harper’s. The very brief stories are, according to the headnote, “adapted from letters Flaubert wrote to his lover Louise Colet while he was working on Madame Bovary” (and the stories were published in the wake of Davis’s translation of that novel earlier that fall). The stories are “The Cook’s Lesson,” “The Visit to the Dentist,” “The Coachman and the Worm,” “The Chairs,” and “Pouchet’s Wife.” The one that resonated most with me was the third in the series, about a man who attributes his urges to the tapeworm living inside of him and about a battle that’s both with another and with oneself at the same time. It’s tremendously fascinating how much character and plot gets packed into two paragraphs, but what also impressed me was a quick nod toward another story, about relatives of the main character’s—hints of another tale within this one, only glimpsed but equally gripping. Looks like the stories are only available through a paywall, sadly, or I’d point in that direction. (And originally published, best I can understand, in The Paris Review, but for subscribers only there as well.) — Art Taylor