I think the American International Booker prize winning writer, Lydia Davis and the British comedian, Stewart Lee are linguistically related in their approach to writing short pieces. They each often turn words and sentences round and round to make a point. This is illustrated in the following clip from The Comedy Vehicle, Lee’s 2013 British TV. Here he riffs on a sentence he has heard in a taxi driver’s cab: “These days, if you say you are English, you can be arrested and thrown in jail”. He reports the ensuing conversation with the taxi driver, repeating this sentence again and again with different emphases and variations until the taxi driver is worn down. What’s so great about the piece is that, as a listener, you get worn down by the repetition too – a brilliant tiny short story. It’s worth listening to the entire half an hour show to get a further variation of the taxi driver sentence right at the end. Stewart Lee’s performances are master classes in showing not telling. And this is a perfect example.
Lydia Davis’s flash fiction ‘A Mown Lawn’ does something similar. She plays on the two words ‘mown lawn’ until as a reader you are almost sick of the repetition but quite enthralled. In the process, she says a lot about the state of America, just as Lee, in his piece, points out the state of things in this country regarding immigration and prejudice. Neither of them have said anything overtly. I’m excited to find a clip of Lydia reading this story. Click here to listen.