The functions of Mama and Nurse were obvious: they dressed Grisha, fed him, and put him to bed; but why Papa should be there was incomprehensible.
—Anton Chekhov, from “Grisha”
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
Grisha is a 2-year old who does not yet speak, never mind articulate his own confusion; but his egocentric idea that the world is made for him, that other people make sense only as they relate to him, do for him, is a subjective perspective so familiar, the reader recognizes it as an individualist truth, as human as our own early notion that the sun revolves around earth. The contrast of the child's innate self interest with Chekhov's selfless ability to know a mind so distant from his own highlights the miracle of this writer, who gets us closer to his character in third person than most first person narratives. Grisha leaves the safety of his square crib and room, and goes out into the world for the first time, an odyssey complete with obstacles, with fear, pleasure, and pain. Every time he puts out his hand to taste something new, Nurse yanks and reprimands him. At the end of the day's adventure, Mama diagnoses Grisha's restlessness as indigestion, doses him with cod liver oil, and the reader is both amused and chagrined at adult misapprehension and intrusion, at our first life lessons, at what constitutes life.
—Pearl Abraham is the author of, most recently, American Taliban and The Seventh Beggar