Monday, October 13, 2014

A Beautiful Sentence

I was listening to a book talk show on PBS and Anthony Doerr, author of ALL THE LIGHT YOU CANNOT SEE, said his favorite thing about writing was the production of a beautiful sentence. He names a few writers who he thought produced them.

Now he explained that such a sentence must be free of cliche, impart an idea and do it in a lucid, fresh, original way.

What beautiful sentence do you remember?

"Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum."
-- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.

10 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Oh, that is a great sentence!! I love the way it conveys so much.

George said...

Henry James wrote thousands of beautiful sentences but here is one I wish I wrote: "We must know, as much as possible, in our beautiful art...what we are talking about — and the only way to know is to have lived and loved and cursed and floundered and enjoyed and suffered. I think I don't regret a single 'excess' of my responsive youth — I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn't embrace."

pattinase (abbott) said...

He surely did. There must be hundreds in PORTRAIT OF A LADY alone.

Charles Gramlich said...

That is a great sentence. I love these as well. Perhaps my favorite of my own is: She had the lips that Satan dreamed of in his long fall to hell."

Chris said...

Crumley's opener to The Last Good Kiss gets mentioned a lot, for good reason: "When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."

Deb said...

So many perfect sentences, so little time. I find it's less the perfection if the sentence and more about the sentence being perfect for its context. Here's one from Amy Bloom's Lucky Us (my favorite novel of the year, so far), spoken by the main character's hard-as-nails mother: "When I say all men are dogs, I'm not being insulting. I like dogs." A perfect sentence for that character to utter.

Gerard said...

I can only thing of the opening line to Stephen Hunter's DIRTY WHITE BOYS.

I'm now reading BIG MARIA by Johnny Shaw and that has some great lines in it that, as Deb writes, fit its context.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Good point, Deb. The sentence, if is not description, must be in tune with the character.
Not familiar with the Hunter one, Gerard.

Richard said...

I think Hemingway wrote a few, terse and direct but evocative. None I can think of specifically.

Chris said...

Here's the Stephen Hunter sentence, Patti: "Three men at McAlester State Penitentiary had larger penises than Lamar Pye, but all were black and therefore, by Lamar's own figuring, hardly human at all."

Definitely says something about the character right out of the gate, doesn't it?