Maya Feldman On:

Television by Lydia Davis

Historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote that the youth of the end of the twentieth century grow up in a sort of permanent present. “Television” was published in the collection Varieties of Disturbance in 2007, and somehow, it seems to me that nearly a decade later, what it describes has already become such a widespread and trivial phenomenon that we no longer find the need to pause and observe it. We watch TV series. Staring at the screen pushes away our days. The question “What are you watching now?” is a central to any small talk, and has long replaced the question “What do you read?” This story, like many others of Davis’s short prose, is sharp and precise and reminds us why we should never stop observing. Looking back on Hobsbawm’s words, and on Davis’s writing, here and in other stories, we may pinpoint the process: what was considered a critical, hard-hitting statement a decade or two ago, is now a common truth—we wish to move away from the days, prefer the simple plot of a film — have we always struggled so much to bear even the present?

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