I am an American, Chicago born–Chicago, that somber city–and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.
—Saul Bellow, from Augie’s March
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
Echoing Huck Finn and Catcher in the Rye, this first-person voice quickly announces itself as American, self-made, self-reliant, not dependent on family status or inheritance--Augie March grows up in a poor immigrant Jewish neighborhood and doesn’t know his father. Bellow distinguishes his native picaro from his predecessors with urban rhythms, the clipped "Chicago-born," an unsentimental no-time-for-chitchat compression, immediately expanded with the side-noted structural interruption, "Chicago, that somber city." The brash self assertion of someone who must push his way in finds confirmation in the wisdom of the aphoristic Yiddish-sounding street-wise "first to knock, first admitted." In its final notes, the sentence suggests what's coming: Augie's sentimental education, a journey from naïveté to corruption, reminding the reader that somber Chicago was also that famously gangster city.
—Pearl Abraham is the author of American Taliban and The Seventh Beggar