Once or twice in the past he had been faintly disquieted by Zenobia’s way of letting things happen without seeming to remark them, and then, weeks afterward, in a casual phrase, revealing that she had all along taken her notes and drawn her inferences.
—Edith Wharton, from Ethan Frome
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
By the time that first comma arrives, and then the next two which so quickly follow, the route of the whole sentence is cast. I remember my brief anxiety there—feeling the shape of the sentence forming, hoping the second part was up to the task. Of course, the part is up to the task—the whole sentence is clean, spare, beautifully paced. It's a hinge in the story, too; events turn because of this sentence, loitering intentions ripen, recrudesce at just this syntactical moment. I love this sentence because it points out that a way in which I want to know—as a terrible drive with its end enfolded—will, in fact be dramatized in a much larger field in the story. It's like a game, reading this sentence. I see the arm cocked and the point let fly. I get a little blinded by sun and step back. I agitate from foot to foot—then catch it like an ampoule of dye, or poison, or perfume tossed from a speeding sled, safely.
—Lia Purpura is the author of six collections of essays, poems and translations. This passage is excerpted from Rough Likeness.