Cathy Day, in a post over at The Bird Sisters, suggests that if you’re a writer who loves words and books and literature and all things literary, well, for heaven’s sake, stop whining about how hard it is to get published and start creating or at least contributing to a literary culture. After all, the more people who value books and good words, the more people who will pay money for said books and good words.
Now, I don’t want to bore people, but the truth of the matter is, certain sentences make me salivate they’re so good—sometimes because they’re funny or witty; other times because they’re vivid or beautiful; and still other times simply because they are superbly well-crafted.
So, in the spirit of Ms. Day’s post, I’m going to share with you several delightful sentences I’ve read in the past week.
Today’s Most Awesome Sentence comes from The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien:
But still she [Shelob] was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dur; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness.”
Um, wow. Just wow.
Over the weekend I read this gem from Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas (this is the first sentence of a caption under a painting of Lord Frederick North):
An embattled, spheroidal figure, pictured here before achieving final circumference, North led Britain’s hard-line approach toward the American colonies and is chiefly known as the man who lost them.”
If you didn’t laugh at that sentence, you weren’t reading closely enough. Try again.
Metaxas’s sentence reminded me of a paragraph from A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse that always makes me laugh, so of course, I had to break out the book and re-read this passage:
Whatever may be said of the possibility of love at first sight, in which theory George was now a confirmed believer, there can be no doubt that an exactly opposite phenomenon is of frequent occurrence. After one look at some people, even friendship is impossible.
Such a one, in George’s opinion, was this gurgling excrescence underneath the silk hat. He comprised in his single person practically all the qualities which George disliked most. He was, for a young man, extraordinarily obese. Already a second edition of his chin had been published…He wore a little moustache, which to George’s prejudiced eye seemed more a complaint than a moustache. His face was red, his manner dictatorial, and he was touched in the wind.”
That chin bit slays me every time.
Jane asked her Papa and Pita, who were here for a visit, to read Winnie-the-Pooh to her. (That’s the A.A. Milne version, in case there was any question, which there shouldn’t be. The Disneyfied books ought to be drowned and put out of their pedantic and poorly-written misery.) My parents didn’t get to finish the book before they left, so I had the pleasure of reading the last few stories with Jane, including this delightful sentence which follows a whole round of hushing during Christopher Robin’s Expotition to the North Pole:
“And the last and smallest friend-and-relation was so upset to find that the whole Expotition was saying “Hush!” to him, that he buried himself head downwards in a crack in the ground, and stayed there for two days until the danger was over, and then went home in a great hurry, and lived quietly with his Aunt ever-afterwards. His name was Alexander Beetle.”
And that’s the first—and the last—we hear of Alexander Beetle, though it’s clear he’s an important personage and will someday have his own TV spinoff. Seriously, A.A. Milne should be taught in college. The man can write.
Finally, here are the last two sentences from chapter 5 of The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook by Joyce Lankester Brisley, in which Milly-Molly-Mandy goes to a party and exchanges the prize she won (which she doesn’t want) for the booby prize, a little white cotton-wool rabbit with sad black eyes (which she desperately wants):
So Milly-Molly-Mandy and the booby rabbit went home together to the nice white cottage with the thatched roof, and Father and Mother and Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle and Aunty all liked the booby rabbit very much indeed.
And do you know, one day one of his little bead eyes dropped off, and when Mother had stuck it on again with a dab of glue, his eyes didn’t look a bit sad any more, but almost as happy as Milly-Molly-Mandy’s own!”
The cadences of this book’s sentences make my heart happy.
And just for the record: I happily and heartily recommend to anyone and everyone any and all of the books from which I have extracted these superlative sentences.
Viva la literatura!
(Special thanks to Tania Runyan for pointing me in Ms. Day’s direction.)