kings of sentences
Posted on September 21, 2009
. . . I say that a poem has the potential for perfection and this possibility finally silenced me, or sometimes I say that I felt trapped in the poems I tried to write, which is like saying one feels trapped in the universe . . .
Nicole Krauss, “From the Desk of Daniel Varsky
Whatever happened in those days, whatever befell our regard, Clea and I couldn’t rest until it had been converted into what we told ourselves were astonishingly unprecedented and charming sentences: “Esther’s cleavage is something to be noticed” or “You can’t have a contemporary prison without contemporary furniture” or “I envision an art which will make criticism itself seem like a cognitive symptom, one which its sufferers define to themselves as taste but is in fact nothing of the sort” or “I said I want my eggs scrambled, not destroyed.”
Jonathan Lethem, “The King of Sentences”
. . . our bodies, which seem to bring us the riches of the earth, prevent the world from reaching us. For the eyes of our skin are closed. Brightness streams in on us, and we cannot see. Things flow against us, and we cannot feel.
Steven Millhauser, “The Wizard of West Orange”
Only one or two lemons tumble from the branches each hour, but I’ve been sitting here so long, their falling seems contiguous, close as raindrops.
Karen Russell, “Vampires in the Lemon Grove”
Twice already Marie had pointed out the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn, because the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn put her in mind of a haunted house — not a haunted house she had ever actually seen but the mythical one that sometimes appeared in her mind (with adjacent graveyard and cat on a fence) whenever she saw the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect etc. etc., and she wanted to make sure that, if the kids had a corresponding mythical haunted house that appeared in their minds whenever they saw the brilliance of the etc. etc., it would come up now, so that they could all experience it together, like friends, like college friends on a road trip, sans pot, ha ha ha!
George Saunders, “Puppy”
A few of my favorite sentences from The Best American Short Stories 2008. Beth buys the collection for me every year, has done so for probably close to twenty years now. Poor, I bought them used before that. I think I have them back to ’84 or a couple years earlier. Of course it is ridiculous to think these are actually the best, but the compilation is always reliably great and also thankfully uneven. I like the series better because I do not like all the stories. Also, the series is where I first read “Ralph the Duck,” which is such a flat-out marvel that I will make sure I own each new book for as long as I can, just as thanks.