But school is where it all began, so I need to return briefly to a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes, to some approximate memories which time has deformed into certainty.
–Julian Barnes, from The Sense of an Ending
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
School, our first foray away from insular family life into the world, is where it usually begins. It’s a small world, yes, but as microcosm of the larger one, school provides us with all the formative trauma we will need: Friendships and rivalries, a recognition of our own strengths and limitations, and, significantly, the realization that there is always someone smarter than us, someone against whom we will both sharpen and measure ourselves. Adrian Finn, the newcomer fourth in a comfortable three-way boyhood friendship, and the one who will outstrip our narrator—he goes up to Cambridge while our narrator winds up at lesser Bristol--serves this purpose in this novel. When brilliant Adrian also lands Veronica—there is always a girl even when it isn’t really about the girl—jealousy surfaces momentarily, and sets in motion a plot that will come back to haunt. Years later, looking back restlessly, our elderly still-obtuse narrator attempts to make “incident,” “anecdote,” and “memory” yield some “certainty” and serve to explain himself to himself, but even when he thinks he knows something, it turns out, as Veronica says, he never gets it. Time and age haven’t helped. These four primary words in the string of percussive prepositional clauses, unmarked by the usual commas, present a progression that does the work of charting the passage of time, while at the same encapsulating the narrative strategy of this novel with admirable compression.
—Pearl Abraham is the author of American Taliban and The Seventh Beggar