“How He Changed over Time” is a new Lydia Davis story in the fall issue of VQR.
Here are the first two paragraphs:
He used to play the violin, but then, as his fingers thickened and lost some of their agility, he became frustrated by trying to play, and then bored by it. He put the violin away in its case for good, had the case removed to a storeroom, and, instead, invited others in to play for him and his family in the evenings. In time, this playing by others, too, wearied him with its incessant sound and he no longer invited musicians into his home or willingly listened to any music, except, perhaps, at long intervals, from a distance, a patriotic march.
He used to provide what was needed in the way of food, equipment, and guides for parties of men to go off exploring. They would bring him not only reports of what they had seen but also handsome artifacts, such as feathered tribal headdresses and small handmade axes and other tools. These he would display in his roomy front hall, and visitors waiting for a private audience would pass the time studying the artifacts and learning about the indigenous tribes of the country. He had had exactly this in mind, to educate the public, when he directed that the artifacts be displayed thus on the walls and in cabinets. But then he tired of the artifacts and lost interest in what they signaled of other cultures, and no longer cared about educating the public. He had everything in the front hall taken off the walls and out of the house and sold to a museum. The bare walls, a relief to his eyes, were then to be painted gold. He no longer sent parties of men out to explore the wilderness, for he no longer had any interest in other landscapes or the wildlife or primitive peoples that inhabited them. Geography now confused him.
Read the rest of the “story” (really, it’s something closer to a poetic (and critical) essay on Thomas Jefferson).