She still believed everything she believed, cultivated privacy and solitude, and, despite her attachment to the Sweet Apple tykes, believed childlessness the noble course (yes, your kid might cure cancer, but probably he’d grow up to play video games or, if the world followed its current path, huddle in a gulch slurping gulchwater and recalling the magnificence of video games).
–Sam Lipsyte, from “The Climber Room,” in The Fun Parts
Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
—Stephanie Grant, Guest Editor
A secret minimalism is at work below the surface of this flashy, fast-moving prose, perhaps best embodied in the phrase "huddle in a gulch slurping gulchwater," bound tightly by the short "u" sound that recurs in five of the six words (even the "a" sounds like an "uh" here) and the repetition of "gulch," a somewhat absurd word with a lot of music to it. The short sentences—the passage opens with “She wanted a baby. That was all.”—featured on both sides of this long one serves as a framing device. They are simple, declarative, seemingly definitive, four and three words respectively--small and getting smaller, a done deal. Then the long sentence explodes: 60 words of half-unhinged hopes and fears, all in the self-hectoring rhythm of human thought, culminating in a horrific vision of a hypothetical child in a post-cataclysmic ditch, which ought to be enough to spook anyone out of procreating--only it's not. "But she wanted a baby" says the fourth sentence, five words reprising the blunt structure and declarative tone of those first two sentences. Syntax, word choice, and narrative flow mutually reinforce and enhance the point of this passage: This woman is arguing with herself and losing. She wants something that she does not want to want.
–Justin Taylor is the author of Flings