As he crossed toward the pharmacy at the corner he involuntarily turned his head because of a burst of light that ricocheted from his temple, and saw, with that quick smile with which we greet a rainbow or a rose, a blindingly white parallelogram of sky being unloaded from the van — a dresser with mirror, across which, as across a cinema screen, passed a flawlessly clear reflection of boughs, sliding and swaying not aboreally, but with a human vacillation, produced by the nature of those who were carrying this sky, these boughs, this sliding facade.
–Vladimir Nabokov, from The Gift
AboutPoets 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
Nabokov's sentence stops time as you marvel at it, detaches itself from the narrative that contains it as you re-read again and -- something we are all likely to do -- and again. By the second or third time the heart of its unexpected and mysterious beauty reveals itself: the centaur-like entity of the second half of this remarkable statement, the "not aboreally, but with a human vacillation," awakens, then takes us beyond, the graceful, nightmarish childhood fantasy of the animated, talking trees in the Wizard of Oz, interpenetrating the essences of two familiar, yet distinctly different life forms, trees and ourselves. That is the defining quality of what the Russian Formalist critic Viktor Schklovsky referred to as "defamiliarization." It pokes a hole in the screen of our perceptions of ourselves and the world surrounding us, and we look through it at an entirely new set of possibilities. —Chuck Wachtel, author of Joe the Engineer, The Gates, 3/03, and Because We Are Here