Again and again she returned to an intricate stretch just south of the interchange where successful passage from the Hollywood onto the Harbor required a diagonal move across four lanes of traffic.
—Joan Didion, from Play it as it Lays
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
The complex traffic on LA highways serves as metaphor for life in Joan Didion’s novel. Maria’s ultimate fantasy is to navigate the intricate merge smoothly, fearlessly, avoiding obstacles, in one even breath, without braking or slowing down, and without losing the rhythm of the day, of life. In the sentence that follows, Didion writes: “On the afternoon she finally did it without once braking or once losing the beat on the radio she was exhilarated, and that night slept dreamlessly.” The achievement, a sustained uninterrupted focus that leads to success, brings relief and the respite of sleep. Sustained focus is also every writer’s fantasy, the jazzy exhilaration of maintaining the rhythm of a story and its language without pause, and doing it in one go, like the unbroken flow of a river. Fifteen years later, Brett Easton Ellis echoes Didion with his opening sentence in Less Than Zero: “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.”
—Catherine Texier is the author of Victorine and Breakup