Hello, my life, I said.
–Grace Paley, from Wants
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
This sentence, the third in Grace Paley's famous story Wants, captures the experience of divorce (and perhaps of any breakup after a long relationship) in five words. Our narrator runs into her ex-husband in the street. In the next line we learn that they'd “once been married for twenty-seven years,” but of course we already know that, or know the part that matters: this man was at one time her life, they shared a full life, it lasted a whole life. And yet now he, and what they once shared, is something she can run into on the steps of a library. That, to me, is Paley's genius—writing these short lines, often short dialogue lines, that not only pack a punch but also encapsulate vast fictional landscapes. “Hello” is the present, the front story. “My life” is the past, the backstory. And the tension between the two when you smoosh them together in a sentence, is the magic of this story.
–Shelly Oria is the author of recently published New York 1, Tel Aviv 0