In the fall of 1960, when I was sixteen and my father was for a time not working, my mother met a man named Warren Miller and fell in love with him.
—Richard Ford, from Wildlife
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
The above sentence, the first of Ford’s short novel, is so deceptively plain upon first reading, that the precision of it, the ‘going-over’ it must have undergone, may go overlooked. That classic, nearly clichèd initial clause, all that alliteration, the almost jumbled phrasing of ‘was for a time’—this sentence shouldn’t even work, yet it does, and is in fact sonically perfect. There’s a half-concealed rhyme scheme shared between ‘1960’ and ‘sixteen’ that slides into the F of ‘father’ as it reaches back to the first F, ‘fall’, and moves toward the T (remember ‘teen’?) in ‘time’, with the result being that ‘was for a time’ has enough F and T reverb to work with ‘not working’, which is a kind of miracle. All the consonant-play of the middle clause coupled with the aural dominance of the M, N, W in ‘time not working’ sets up the limerick-like ‘my mother met a man’—so that the name ‘Warren Miller’ (it mirrors ‘not working’—is ‘not working’) follows ‘named’ (palindrome-ing out of ‘man’) and grows like a bud from the sound preceding it, the whole sentence finalized with the hard, human fact of ‘fell in love with him’, the F, L, I of the first clause returned to us like a broken heart, which is what this book, a great one, is all about.
—Dan Bevacqua's fiction has appeared in The New Orleans Review, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, and elsewhere.