Onion Pie

I was sure that I had never read Lydia Davis’ Almost No Memory before. But aspects of one of the stories seemed familiar. There was a couple working as caretakers for a house in the countryside. The money from that job and the money they earned from other unspecified work was barely keeping them fed. They felt distracted, unattached to everybody around them. (At the table next to me, a pair of men passed a copy of The Little Prince back and forth between them. One described the dimensions of the copy he’d had as a child, while the other was concerned about how closely the illustration colors matched the older editions. The book ended up on the table between them, never opened. The one guy started reading another book, the other wrote on a pad of paper. The title that he wrote at the top of his page was “Poop”.) When an onion pie surfaced in the story, I realized that the same onion pie and the same cabin fever had played a part in Paul Auster’s memoir, Hand to Mouth. Auster is Davis’ ex-husband. The two of them had written quite different stories about the same incident. The climax of that part of Auster’s book centers around the onion pie. The impact of the story is concentrated there, like a punchline. In Davis’ story the onion pie is the halfway point, there are two more seasons to get through in that house, and the tone is spread thinly across the whole story.

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