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Language in Literature > Amazing Sentences I Just Read...

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message 1: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
Read any drop-dead awesome sentences lately? Quote them here, and be sure to give credit (and a little boost) to the author and title.

message 2: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
Here's a paragraph from one of my favorite "Dark Horse" (as in unknown) books, The Hair of Harold Roux by Thomas Williams. Here is a story a father tells his children. It's about a boy (Billy) and a girl (Janie) who dare to approach an old hag while she's asleep (or is she?) in a cabin deep in the woods:

"Nearer, the old woman's smell grew stronger. To Billy it was like the first puff of air from the paunch of a deer as his father's long knife freed the tripas from the body, or the way the very leaves could hold and keep the news of a black bear's passage through them, so the hairs on the back of your neck stiffened almost before you could remember what the smell meant, and then when you knew, and looked around quickly for your father, it seemed that your stiffening hairs and not your nose were what had told you. To Janie it was the smell of small animals just after being born, a vixen licking her still damp kits deep in a moist cave. She had smelled it in the early spring when it came in a warm wave of air...

"Billy held the candle up before the ancient sleeping face. If the eyes had opened at that moment, Billy was sure he would have died of fright. But the eyes didn't open. The wrinkled face shone, brown as polished wood, shining squares and diamond shapes and triangles cut by the deep cracks. The old woman's mouth was closed, her lips folded and collapsed at the outer edges. Gray hairs curled and straggled from a black mole on her sunken chin.

"And then as if in a dream Janie found her own shy arm reading out toward that face. She came closer, closer, till she felt the warm, rich air of the old woman's breath on her hand. She reached toward the brown, wrinkled eyelid and lifted it up from the sunken eye.

"What they both saw then was so strange that in their wonder they almost forgot to be afraid, for in the eye was no pupil or iris but a clear lighted glasslike globe in which they could see with the clarity of a bright winter day green spruce trees and a great crystal waterfall, and behind the wildly flashing water a dark mountain. Over its gray rock, black clouds rolled and climbed against a clear blue sky."

message 3: by Prabha (last edited Feb 03, 2008 05:58AM) (new)

Prabha | 70 comments That's lovely, so poetically descriptive.

This is not from a 'dark horse' book, but from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams - but it's a beautiful paragraph and always worth sharing:

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

message 4: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
Ah, I love metaphoric passages like that. And you sent me back -- back to the day when I read aloud to mine own kiddies, though they were bigger fans of Maragaret Wise-Beyond-Her-Years Brown (Goodnight, Moon) and Elsa Beskow (Peter in Blueberry Land, et. al.).

message 5: by Prabha (new)

Prabha | 70 comments Should i try to date you again based on the "..sent me back.." :) My kids love 'Goodnight, Moon' too, and so do I.

message 6: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
I'll help you: I'm "dated goods." I won't confess to the expiration date, however.

I prefer not posting my picture on-line, anyway. People develop a composite picture based on voice. At least I do. It's similar to when you read books. You just start to picture the characters as looking certain ways -- sometimes with the help of the author, and sometimes despite the cues of the author.

message 7: by Prabha (last edited Feb 05, 2008 07:28AM) (new)

Prabha | 70 comments Dated's ok, as long as you're up-to-date and not out-dated i guess :)

I'll let you (and everyone else here!)in on a secret - I discovered Goodreads through Facebook! For me Facebook's great for maintaining my ties with some of my friends and family who are all over the world, especially for sharing family pix etc. Hence, my picture was posted here; i was in a hurry to register and uploaded exactly the same details as in my facebook account. And now, well, it seems a little silly to remove it after it's been here all this while!

I get what you mean about imagining a character to look a certain way, and even project a certain image perhaps. Which is why sometimes when i watch an adaptation of a favourite book, i just don't 'get' the character and how he/she/it is portrayed in the movie. And that completely ruins the adaptation for me. Can think of several examples but am totally off-topic as it is :)

message 8: by Ken (last edited Mar 03, 2008 01:25PM) (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
Facebook? Never been. Ever. I guess that alone dates me.

And you wouldn't be off topic if you quoted a favorite sentence describing a character that you think is spot on or spot off. (And isn't THAT just the easiest thing to do.)

In the mean time, I am waiting for someone else to weigh in. Got the scales ready and everything. Pounds for this side of the pond, kilos for that...

message 9: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 03, 2008 07:37AM) (new)

This is from a goodreads member, James. It's from a post on the haters club yesterday.

It was funny in context and is sort of lovely in it's succinct sentiment.

It sort of sums up the philosophy of the haters; irreverent, light hearted cynicism and sarcasm...

"Everyday is exactly the same.
There is no love here
And there is no pain."

...and well crafted.

message 10: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
Very reminiscent of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament ("There is nothing new under the sun"... even love and pain.)

The Book of James (you should tell James) is a literary treat, too.

Note: I mine the Bible for literary purposes. That means I love the poetic King James Version best.

message 11: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 03, 2008 05:10PM) (new)

i've just read the bible cover to cover for the first time
it is so full of poetry
and for me is the word of god
incredible, lovely, powerful. and uplifting

Certain books of the bible of course are much more "literary" and pleasing to readers and writers than others

I like Corinthians and Luke in particular if I remember correctly and the psalms

message 12: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
Thanks to Bartleby, the first chapter of Ecclesiastes (King James Version, or as they say in learned circles, KJV). It's a great instruction piece for parallel structure, and also the source of Hemingway's title, The Sun Also Rises. (From Ch. 3, you get the words to that 60's song, "Turn, Turn, Turn.")

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
3 What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?
4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full: unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
8 All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

very lovely

message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 27, 2008 07:16AM) (new)

i'm reading the book, In My Hands:Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by irene gut opdyke

and as she is watching a group of jews being loaded into trucks knowing they are going to their deaths she writes,

"I tried to pray, but the words in my head did not fit together in the right order. I wanted to say 'Holy Father,' but I could not. I thought He must have gone far away, taking His name with Him."

message 15: by Prabha (new)

Prabha | 70 comments Thanks for sharing that Maureen.

It's so vivid.

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

it's a wonderful book

difficult topic but it shows how the human spirit can endure and shine through even unspeakable events

i should mention writing credits are shared with jennifer armstrong a historical fiction writer

message 17: by Inky (last edited Mar 28, 2008 01:39AM) (new)

Inky | 249 comments Hi everyone--

I have three contributions related only by my fondness for them.

First, from Neil Gaiman's Brief Lives:

Touched by her fingers, the two surviving chocolate people copulate desperately, losing themselves in a melting frenzy of lust, spending the last of their brief borrowed lives in a spasm of raspberry cream and fear.

I knew I loved that passage the first time I read it.

And the last bit of sentence penned by Anne Frank in her diary:

...when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be if ... if only there were no other people in the world.

That's a sentence that still breaks my heart.

And, from Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, one of the most cynical pair of ending quotes in literature:

Brett:"Oh, Jake. We could have had such a damned good time together."
Jake: "Yes, isn't it pretty to think so?"

message 18: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
Hi Inky,

Good to see a new face (er... new font?). Nice quotes. I must admit to being partial to the final line of The Sun Also Rises, too. When you think about it, the line "Isn't it pretty to think so?" makes a great closer for MANY topics in life...

Hope you dispense more ink in the group as time goes on.


message 19: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Elin (sharon_elin) I'm reading Salvage by Jane Kotapish. Her writing is lyrical. I knew I would have a friendly visit with this book when I read similes like this one early in the novel:

"A diamond-shaped bed is thick with overgrown roses. The day I look at the house for the first time, the roses have completed a magnificent bloom and linger like drunk women at the end of a party, voluptuous past repair, faded, sick with their own perfume."

message 20: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
I like it, Sharon, I like it! (And I'd never heard tell of Jane Kotapish, either.)

message 21: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Elin (sharon_elin) She's a new author, first book just out this month. So far I like the heady way she uses words and I'm only 50 pages along.

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

love the way she combines things in an unusual way hinting at more

message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

donna on sarah's sensibility thread describes the rep. party as the bad daddy party or the
"just shut up and row, or I'll smack ya, party"

brilliant sentence that

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

are you poppin pills again?
you just dug up my pest ridden marigold with that toe!
sheesh she can write but watch out for those big toes of hers ;)

message 25: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 19, 2008 08:01PM) (new)

the poodle is popping pills now? (scratched head in confusion)

message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

"Oh, what a fine and handsome thing it is to sit in taverns over flagons of ale and discourse bravely of what daring things we will do! How we will walk the unknown paths through lands of sylvan beauty, facing the savage in his native habitat, far from the dust of London crowds!

Warmed by wine, the rolling poetry of words and a fine sweep of geture, a young man feels the world is his, with a pearl in every oyster, a lovely lass behind every window, and enemies who fade from sight at his very presence! Yet the moment of reality comes, and no eloquence will build a stockade, nor will a poetic phrase fend off an arrow, for the savage of the woodland has his own conception of romance and poetry, which may involve the dreamers scalp.

Forever the dream is in the mind, realization in the hands."

Louis L'amour
To the Far Blue Mountains

message 27: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6389 comments Mod
And how true is "Forever the dream is in the mind, the realisation is in the hands". Trouble is, you need a soupcon of courage to do the realising bit sometimes!!!

message 28: by [deleted user] (last edited May 12, 2008 10:18AM) (new)

Donna & Debbie-- you both hit on the parts of that passage that I was taken with. I also really like the very first sentence-- isn't it so true?

Now for another from the same book:

"We grow wise, you and I, but in wisdom there is often pain . . .

Who is it for whom one becomes wise? Is it not for the people? For his people? Do I become wise only for myself? I become wise to advise, to help . . . but they do not believe and my voice is only an echo in an empty canyon. I speak for my ears only and the sound is hollow."

message 29: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 24, 2008 09:34AM) (new)

i'm officially outing our newest poster nathan as an amazing sentence writer
he just introduced himself on the introductions thread
here is the amazing sentence,

"So now I'm kind of an amateur linguist, which means I think I'm much smarter than I actually am."

whoo hoo

i identify

message 30: by Tyler (last edited May 12, 2008 09:29AM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 268 comments Here are three.

The Mayor of Casterbridge:

Continually it had happened that what she had desired had not been granted her, and that what had been granted her she had not desired. So she viewed with an approach to equanimity the now cancelled days when Donald had been her undeclared lover, and wondered what unwished-for thing Heaven might send her in place of him.

Jude the Obscure:

How Arabella had obtained the money did not appear, but she ordered a liqueur each, and paid for them. When they had drunk these, Arabella suggested another; and Jude had the pleasure of being, as it were, personally conducted through the varieties of spirituous delectation by one who knew the landmarks well...

Palace Walk:

The life of the camp made a deep impression on him, giving an all-encompassing vividness to his flights of imagination and dreams that were engraved in his heart alongside Amina's legends and accounts of the world of mysteries and Yasin's stories and their magical universe, to which Kamal added the phantoms and visions of his daydreams about the lives of ants, sparrows, and chickens, which occupied his mind when he was on the roof surrounded by sprigs of jasmine, hyacinth beans, and pots of flowers.

message 31: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
A Hardy fan, I see. (And the last is an Egyptian writer... or is it Auster? Close, eh? Only about half a world away from each other.)

Anyway, I read The Return of the Native on Holden Caulfield's suggestion. Then I read Tess of the D'Urbervilles on my own.

message 32: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 268 comments Palace Walk is Egyptian. It's my first attempt at non-Western literature. I haven't reviewed it yet because I just finished, but it's incredibly good.

I didn't read Return of the Native, but I read Tess for the first time last year, and I'm sorry I didn't read it years ago. It's almost perfectly evocative in its storytelling.

message 33: by Ken (last edited May 12, 2008 05:27PM) (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
If it's any consolation, I still haven't read Jude the Obscure or Far from the Madding Crowd, either. I've always liked that it's "madding" and not "maddening" as we say in these parts.

I read The Mayor of Casterbridge recently as a prospective book to teach in 8th grade, but it was voted down by the "board" (or shall I say "bored") who felt that it would have little appeal to the MTV-generation (XYZ, whatever).

message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

return of the native used to be my all time favorite book
it's been some time and i don't know if it will hold up on a reread

message 35: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
Yeah, that's the scary thing about rereading books -- especially ones you loved as a kid, teenager, or college student (you know, the young Romantic stage). For instance, I was wild about Hermann Hesse's Peter Camenzind when I first read it in my young 20's. Rereading it around 3 years ago, I said, "So...?"

Fortunately, I still like Catcher in the Rye. For some people, that doesn't work out...

message 36: by Ken (last edited May 13, 2008 02:21AM) (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
Never read a whit of Wolfe. But then, I've always had this allergy thing with Southern writers. Thus, the Faulk (ah... ah... ah!) Faulk (ah...!) Faulk (ah... ah...) Faulkner (chooooooo!) thing.

message 37: by Ken (last edited May 13, 2008 01:57PM) (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
I know English (Shakespearean, Elizabethan) sonnets and I know Italian (Petrarchan) sonnets, but I've never heard tell of Alexandrine ones. Made famous by Great, comma, Alexander the? Or does it allude to poetry slams in Alexandria, Egypt?

message 38: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
Ah. I would have understood "Byzantine" before "Alexandrine," but then I am not classically versed and my knowledge is limited. You're not bad (throwing those terms around like so many Frisbees)!

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Only eight? So much for getting what I paid for. Oh, wait- I didn't pay...

I liked your line earlier, Donna : "[I'm] Getting better about dragging myself out in the weather, largely because of the dogs making sad faces at me when I don't. Maybe I need a dog to make sad faces at me when I don't read Hardy. :)" I need someone to make puppy dog eyes at me so I finish writing all my wedding thank-yous!

I also rather like the line by Greta K. Nagel: “Usefulness is not impaired by imperfection. You can drink from a chipped cup."

message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

(Anyone know who Greta Nagel is?)

message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Ah. Google is a glorious thing. if anyone cares.

message 42: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18549 comments Mod
She's news to me. Another Buddhist in the Classroom, eh?

message 43: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6389 comments Mod

message 44: by Lasairfiona (last edited Jul 16, 2008 04:35AM) (new)

Lasairfiona | 20 comments I got this from a webcomic (good stuff and their main comic is even better).

"Sentients. I, the Prime Mover for this sector, am pleased to open this, the Eighteen Thousand, Seven Hundred and First session of the Gallimaufry.

"We thank this station for harboring us, space for spawning us, and the spirit of cooperation that allows us to peacefully work together towards the Ultimate Understanding.

"You may commence."

I just thought it was a great, simple, nonoffensive to the many alien species (yeah, it is a space opera comic), and to the point benediction.

message 45: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 268 comments I haven't seen any amazing sentences posted in some while.

This is and excellent piece of writing within its context, and it also exhibits a lucid flow of thought. The author got it right!

message 46: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments This is the first sentence of a book:

"It is best to use discretion when confronting an emotionally shattered man, especially if he's holding a semiautomatic rifle."

Words to live by.

The book is Now the Hell Will Start, by Brendan Koerner.

message 47: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 11 comments This isn't written anywhere (other than here) but when I was at the aquarium recently watching the jelly fish and various other small objects I had yet to identify floating around their glowing tank, a little boy next to me (probably about 8 years old) said, "They make luminous poo."

Pretty good for an 8 year old.

message 48: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Boisture | 19 comments The best sentence I have read lately is "I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny."

My favorite kind of fun is the funny kind! But really, my son is on a Cat in the Hat kick right now.

message 49: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 11 comments "Then he asked me what my plans were for the summer, and in the flush of some strong emotion or other I said, more or less: It's the beginning of the summer and I'm standing in the lobby of a thousand-story grand hotel, where a bank of elevators a mile long and an endless red row of monkey attendants in gold braid wait to carry me up, up, up through the suites of moguls, of spies, and of starlets, to rush me straight to the zeppelin mooring at the art deco summit, where they keep the huge dirigible of August tied up and bobbing in the high winds. On the way to the shining needle at the top I will wear a lot of neckties, I will buy five or six works of genius on 45 RPM, and perhaps too many times I will find myself looking at the snapped spine of a lemon wedge at the bottom of a drink." -- The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

message 50: by Jennie (last edited Aug 30, 2008 07:23AM) (new)

Jennie | 11 comments It is their oversize brandy snifter filled with matchbooks that I think of when I make oversize-brandy-snifter-filled-with-matchbook jokes.

Generation X by Douglas Coupland

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