The fact that he does not tell me the truth all the time makes me not sure of his truth at certain times, and then I work to figure out for myself if what he is telling me is the truth or not, and sometimes I can figure out that it’s not the truth and sometimes I don’t know and never know, and sometimes just because he says it to me over and over again I am convinced it is the truth because I don’t believe he would repeat a lie so often.
–Lydia Davis, from “Story”
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
Ordinarily the repetition of such grand abstractions as “time” and “truth” in a clause would feel overwrought, but here the narrator unspools a very long sentence to suggest the convolutions of her information sickness, the seriousness of her predicament. The second main clause undermines the condition of the first main clause, casting doubt on the very idea of “truth;” the “and then I work to figure out,” makes for a compound sentence, very nearly a run-on. In Lydia Davis, the more complicated the feeling the more complicated the sentence. Another way of saying this: form always suggests theme. If jealousy-as-information-sickness is the theme in “Story,” then the more ill the narrator gets the longer the sentences get. It’s a very handy and conceptually economical way to suggest complexity of character and complexity of psychology.
–Rick Moody is the author of, most recently, Hotels of North America