Language Choice

I took a look at the following complete story: Lydia Davis, ‘How W. H. Auden spends the night in a friend’s house’ (2013). Then I considered:

  • The effects of Davis’s language choice:
    Concise in that few words are used, but could do better. Adjectives are used (fetal curl, warm hollow, stealthy excursion, unsteady reach) where more powerful verbs could have been chosen, and are for his second visit (steals out, bending and straightening, choking, stifles). This concision has the effect of encouraging a reader to read and re-read the story in order to take the maximum benefit. It is like being served a gourmet meal, which is then eaten slowly, savoring the taste and texture.
  • The work done by her imagery:
    There are several key words and phrases that carry much, almost all, of the story, (house quiet, search for a warm hollow, stealthy excursion, curtains, satisfaction, new weight, peaceful sleep). These phrases are unpacked by a reader’s mind into images that illuminate the story.

Read the story. See if you agree. It’ll change the way I write. You?


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