His voice traveled like a drug dripped down the spiraling canals of their ears until they had forgotten everything, until they had forgotten their own names, until they turned and offered themselves up to him, their bodies sweet and soft as marzipan.
–Ann Patchett, from Bel Canto
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
When an ordinary declarative sentence is decorated with dependent clauses, the writer achieves a greater textual sophistication as well as heightened psychological fervor. Notice the hypnotic quality of Patchett’s prose choices, the layering of the prepositional phrases, an anaphora that, with each repetition, increases the emotional pull for the reader. Thus the sentence is itself an onomatopoeia, the employment of alliterative language (“drug dripped down,” “spiraling, sweet, soft”) deepens the atmospheric description of the spellbinding voice. The single simile (“their bodies sweet and soft as marzipan”) underscores the syntactical freight: This voice belongs to a predator, someone who metaphorically takes candy from a baby girl.
—Jacquelyn Mitchard is the author of, most recently, Second Nature and Two If By Sea