Lydia Davis Is In My Kickstarter Video

Joanna, Ellen, me, Colin, Lydia, Ben's Deli, 2014. Baby Felix is not in the picture but he was attached to Joanna. Eugene is not in the picture because he was taking it.

Joanna, Ellen, me, Colin, and Lydia, Ben’s Deli, 2014

I never use the adjective “famous” when describing people. Either you know who a public figure is or you don’t, and if you don’t, being told someone is famous is annoying.

Although Lydia Davis has won pretty much every literary award you can think of — including the Man Booker International Prize — outside of a select circle, not as many people as you might expect have heard of her. But she is a good friend and everyone I know from my days of editing The Collected Poems of Paul Blackburn, when I first met her, knows Lydia’s work, if not Lydia.

Because she is not generally well known, because my Kickstarter video runs a little long (though every moment is, I swear, amusing), and because the sound quality of Lydia’s segment isn’t very good (it was recorded over the phone), several people suggested I eliminate it. As the film students at the University of Arizona who made the video said, “Can’t we cut that lady?” That wasn’t going to happen, and not only because she is a good friend and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I don’t think Lydia would have minded.

No, I figured people outside my immediate circle who do know her work would think the idea of Lydia Davis being in a Kickstarter video was inherently interesting because it is so uncharacteristic, and they might be inspired by her endorsement to support my campaign. Kickstarter fundraising 101: Be pragmatic — and brazen.

Picture courtesy of Theo Cote

Author photo courtesy of Theo Cote

Turnaround is fair play

I have been a character — or the source of a dream — in several of Lydia’s stories. There is one about a barrel chair that I bought with my friend Jill in upstate New York and that lived in my New York studio apartment for several years until my friend Chris brought it to Lydia’s house for safekeeping when I moved to Tucson. Most notably, I am Ellie in The End of the Story, which is set in San Diego — the place to which Lydia alludes in the video.

I have also written about Lydia, a piece in Poetics Journal 5 called “Ideas of Order.” It is not available online and I had a hard time making and posting a copy, but if you are determined and not annoyed by technical clumsiness and blurry text, you can read it here: Lydia Davis 2(p. 1), and here Lydia Davis 4 (pp. 2 & 3).

Why Lydia Is in a Deli in the First Picture

More recently, Lydia has supported me in a genealogical research project that was spurred by the discovery that my great uncle Siegmund’s butcher shop shared a building, 19 Berggasse, with Sigmund Freud and his family for some 44 years. Lydia contributed several posts to my Freud’s Butcher blog; here’s just one, about my mother’s family name, Kornmehl. But perhaps the most popular post on my blog had to do with another butcher, this one in Buffalo, New York, whose rolled beef — the giant panda of deli meat — was much discussed at his funeral.

The quest to find and sample rolled beef took me to Ben’s Deli in Rego Park, Queens. Lydia, somewhat reluctantly at first because she is largely vegetarian, agreed to join me and our mutual friends — two of whom, as it happens, were also characters in The End of the Story, though Joanna was only five years old at the time and now has her own baby, Felix.  I cut him out of the picture because you know what they say about dogs and babies.

Lydia tried the rolled beef and liked it. I would be surprised if it turns up in one of her stories, however.

The aforementioned rolled beef, which is not corned beef

The aforementioned rolled beef, which is not corned beef

Outtakes from the Kickstarter

Every good promotional video has outtakes. I wanted to keep Lydia’s segment down to 30 seconds. Lydia and I worked with a script that she wrote; I stipulated only that camels be involved. This is the first round that she sent, complete with time notations. The final version is considerably shorter. The camel stirrups didn’t make it into the recording, but I hope they are still in her will.

I first met Edie years ago in San Diego. We were both far from home, which was the East Coast and specifically New York City. I was out there for a teaching job, and she was out there writing her dissertation on the modernist poet Paul Blackburn. She and I found that we shared a lot of literary– and non-literary!– interests. She had a great sense of humor, and she was also a great story-teller. What a combination–of course we hit it off. What I only gradually discovered was…her obsession with camels. Why camels? Well, I still haven’t figured that out, many camel-themed gifts later. My pair of mismatched camel stirrups I’m not quite ready to give up yet, but I’m leaving them to Edie in my will. [45 sec – 129 wds.]

I first met Edie years ago in San Diego. We were both far from home, specifically New York City. I was teaching, she was writing her dissertation on Paul Blackburn. She had a great sense of humor, and she was also a great story-teller. We shared a lot of literary– and non-literary!– interests. What I only gradually discovered was…her obsession with camels. Why camels? I still haven’t figured that out, many camel gifts later. I’m not quite ready to give up my pair of mismatched camel stirrups, but I’m leaving them to Edie in my will. [35 sec – 96 wds.]

I first met Edie years ago in San Diego. We were both far from home, specifically New York City. I was teaching, she was writing her dissertation on Paul Blackburn. Her sense of humor, her story-telling, her love of language and literature was like an oasis in the desert for me. What I only gradually discovered was…her obsession with camels. Why camels? I still don’t know. I’m not quite ready to give up my pair of mismatched camel stirrups, but I’m leaving them to Edie in my will. [35 sec 91 wds.]

I first met Edie years ago in San Diego. We were both far from home, specifically New York City. I was teaching, she was writing her dissertation on Paul Blackburn. I knew she loved literature and language, editing and writing, and I knew she was a very funny story-teller. What I only gradually discovered was…her peculiar fondness for camels. Why camels? I still don’t know. Well, I won’t give up my beloved pair of mismatched camel stirrups quite yet, but I may leave them to her in my will. [35 sec 89 wds.]

In case you haven’t yet been tempted to look at the end version yet, here it is.

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About the Author

ejarolim@mac.com'

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. katekaemerle@gmail.com' Kate Kaemerle says:

    Only a friend of yours would have camel stirrups!

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