Thursday, March 01, 2007

Lydia Davis: water-tight absurdities

francine prose Do you remember learning to read?
LYDIA DAVIS Yes, and my memories of the Dick and Jane books are very happy memories. I loved learning the words "look" and "see": "Run, Jane, run. See Jane run." It was so clear and easy and unconfusing and neat. Actually I spent my second grade year in Austria. I had one year of learning to read in English and then I learned to read in German. I still have the German textbooks in which the letters got smaller and smaller as the pages progressed through the book.

fp How sadistic!
LD That’s right, very sadistic.

fp Do you think about the rhythms of Dick and Jane?
LD I always liked clarity and simplicity and balance. All rhythms can be seductive. I was attuned to the music of language as well as the music of music. Learning another language when I was seven probably made me hyperconscious of language; also the German language in the classroom was a wall of incomprehensibility around me. Gradually the words began to have meaning. But first I heard the language as rhythm.

fp So do you write for rhythm now?
LD Yes, it’s always rhythm. I always hear it in my head...


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