Is that found material?

Lydia Davis talks about her writing in the Paris Review, and how her work consists now of mostly found material. She explores how there is a line just beyond presenting “real life” which is a bit Schrodinger cat in that almost anything for her that is observed is “found” and therefore fiction — i.e. there’s nothing that isn’t naturally a story once you believe it’s a story.

She says:

“I realized that you could write a story that was really just a narration of something that had happened to you, and change it slightly, without having really to fictionalize it. In a way, that’s found ­material. I think it’s hard to draw the line and say that something isn’t found material. Because if a friend of mine tells me a story or a dream, I guess that’s found material. If I get an e-mail that lends itself to a good story, that’s found material. But then if I notice the cornmeal making little condensations, is that found material? It’s my own, I’m not using text, but I am using a situation that exists. I’m not making it up. I find what happens in reality very interesting and I don’t find a great need to make up things, but I do like retelling stories that are told to me.”

This is an interesting thing to compare with this Louise Gluck line:


Reality, once observed is fiction. And feelings, once written, are overcome or controlled. It’s the same thing really — it’s about taking control of the events in your life through narrative. This isn’t just to avoid the feeling that you’re a minor character in someone else’s story with no way out, but also to sidestep the idea of being the protagonist of someone else’s story by becoming the author.


Loops, cycles, repetition — this RadioLab show has some really good snippets on things that go round and round.

I particularly like the story of the woman with sudden global amnesia — who is set off on a loop of questioning. The idea here is that the brain, when confronted with something startling like this amnesia is flailing around to try and find a time and place for itself.

The podcast also got me searching for a strange sounding sea monster called a hag fish — which is a kind of deep sea eel which has plates instead of teeth, has a skin that it wears like a hoodie and secretes disgusting slime. It’s a gross horror story and I am sure it will stay with me for some time.

Don’t click this link for the wikipedia page. This might be the worst thing I’ve ever looked up, even the basic dry facts of it are a nightmare.




I liked this soppy Sarah Kay poem, especially because of the tweet that went with it — which focuses on the line “I will love you with too many commas,”



I also love the turn in this poem by Temidayo Opeyemi Jacob, in Peeking Cat, called Shedding Off. Here’s a taste of the turn:


Go read the full thing to get a sense of the bodily fun in this turn towards tomatoes.


Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own, where we welcome readers and Yam Yams alike. This is the kind of astrology that I am into. This is the only acceptable kind of geology. This might be a new fave. Ask you boyfriend to sign up here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.