On went the shades, up went the ass, out went the girl, Oscar’s erection following her like a dowser’s wand.
–by Junot Diaz, from The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
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
In this delightful sentence, Junot Diaz evokes Yvón's effect on Oscar with gleeful humor and subtle compassion.The inversion and the emphasis on the three one syllable adverbs — on, up, out — that open each of the three short independent clauses gives us a clear sense of direction and action, the equally direct nouns – shades, ass, girl – build with astonishing economy a picture of Yvón as a va-va-voom girl, and the distinctive rhythm created by the inversion and parallelism in the first three clauses mimics the left-right-left-right swing of her ass as she leaves. No wonder Oscar has an erection! And while poking fun at Oscar for his reaction to Yvón's exit, the sentence manages to convey that his erection is both purely mechanical (suggested by the strict parallelism and machine-like rhythm, the implied cause and effect) and a mysterious and magical occurrence (the dowser’s wand).
– Nawaaz Ahmed was most recently published in Sonora Review, November 2014.