Another very short story: Lego (II)


(Inspired by Letter to a Funeral Parlor by Lydia Davis)

Lego, Inc., I am displeased. Know this: For several years my house was strewn with your bright little bricks and your squat figures and their plug-shaped heads -- small things for small hands. There was always something being built, pieces clicking into place: mountains, Mars, castles.

And know this: I am displeased because of a message you sent to Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident artist, who needs masses of bricks for an exhibit on free speech that he is completing. You told him you do not want your product used in a “political context.”

I have been thinking about this a lot, Lego, and have done a little research. First I read a short story in the form of a customer complaint called Letter to a Funeral Parlor. Lydia Davis describes the hurt and revulsion she feels (and I do feel, as no doubt I am meant to, that it is Davis herself) when a funeral director calls her father’s ashes “the cremains.”

That, she writes, sounds like coffee whitener or “some kind of a chipped beef dish” but it does not sound like her father. “Cremains” is generic; he was particular. It is an invented word; with a few deft strokes, she makes her father real.

Reading this helped me to understand how very many more things can be expressed as stories than I had thought possible.

And then I read some things about you, Lego. If I laid end-to-end all the bricks you produced just last year they would wind around the world more than 24 times, for instance. And this: “There are 915 million ways to combine six Lego bricks of the same colour.” And: You are expanding into the Asian market by building a factory in China. So it’s pretty clear why you don’t want to fulfill a bulk order for Ai Weiwei.

Odd, isn’t it, how you and he are linked. Your work is about childhood. He created a stark white wall bearing the names of pupils killed in the collapse of badly-built schools during the Sichuan earthquake. We’re lucky, Lego. Our vision of childhood is one of bricks clicking into place, of vivid colour, of the particularity of each child. We are very lucky. Just imagine.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely, Jeanie