‘Break It Down’ by Lydia Davis

I first read Lydia Davis when I bought her Collected Stories the year after I finished university. She completely changed the way I thought about writing, about what stories and sentences could be, and of what was worthy of being written about. Shortly thereafter I changed how and what I wrote, writing with more purpose, and more often, and the first fully-formed short story I wrote as an adult was a poor rip-off of ‘Break It Down.’ It continues to be one of the most formally exciting and moving pieces of prose I have ever come across. 

Originally published in The Paris Review, Summer 1983 and available to subscribers to read here. Collected in Break It Down, 1986, FSG, and in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, FSG, 2009/Hamish Hamilton, 2010

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