“That is the substance of remembering – sense, sight, smell: the muscles with which we see and hear and feel – not mind, not thought: there is no such thing as memory; the brain recalls just what the muscles grope for: no more, no less: and its resultant sum is usually incorrect and false and worthy only of the name of dream.”
—William Faulkner, from Absalom, Absalom!
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 line of dialogue, Faulkner challenges the mind’s ability to recount an accurate memory, using syntax that echoes the character's (Rosa’s) pain. Between the m-dash, a polysyndeton of senses beats like a pounding heart: “the muscles with which we see and hear and feel … ” Faulkner then reinforces Rosa’s torture by dividing her thoughts between colons where another writer might have placed semicolons. Such punctuation emulates the groping she mentions. Meanwhile, the clauses vary in tone. In one, she states, “there is no such thing as memory” as a simple fact. In the last clause, the words “incorrect and false” appear side by side with redundancy that reads like an insult. This jab demotes “memory” to the status of “dream.” Through that final word, representing both our ambitions and the surreal images betrayed to us in our sleep, we experience what Rosa experiences: a painful desire for an alternate story; a desperate grope for a better version of reality out of our grasp.
—Nora Bonner's most recent story appeared in the Indiana Review.