My new year’s resolution is to learn to see myself as nothing.
At the length of a single paperback page, this substantive prose piece takes just two minutes and twenty seconds to read. Or to listen, if you let Lydia Davis read it to you. The good people at Conjunctions have provided us with an audio clip of the author reading this story at Bard College. What’s quite curious about this clip is that her reading of the story departs from the print version. It isn’t much—only three small differences. In one, Davis substitutes the word “something” with the words “more than nothing.” Here, on this page, the meanings of these words are essentially indistinguishable from one another. But in Davis’ context, the change in word choice threatens to alter the meaning of the piece entirely. In another, Davis writes, “You spend the first half of your life learning that you are something after all, now you have to spend the second half learning to see yourself as nothing.” However, what she says aloud is, “[N]ow you have to spend the second half learning the value of nothing.” To my mind, seeing oneself as nothing is wholly unrelated to learning the value of nothing. Perhaps to her, it isn’t. What do I know? Nothing. Or is it “less than something”? We can only speculate as to what caused the difference between the text and her reading. Perhaps Davis sought to revise the version that made it to print—an auditory editing, marking lines in red ink with her own voice. Or perhaps Davis was merely reading from her own notes.
For a version that’s faithful to the text, listen to Lydia Davis read the story at Penn. For the curious Bard College version, listen at Conjunctions.