Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Loooong Sentences

Holy crap this is hard. Taking a page from the Epiphanizing blog, I set out to write a response to this prompt, from The 3 AM Epiphany: Take a sentence from a writer you admire or who provokes strong feelings in your gut. Preferably, this should be a fairly long sentence with a lot of different words in it. Use any of the words and only those words (repeating words from the sentence as often as you want) to make up fifteen sentences of your own—adhering around a character or situation that seems related to the author of this sentence, but it need not be a direct response to the author. This is a very difficult exercise, but you may find a handful of crucial ideas about your character from the struggle of coming up with these sentences.

Very difficult indeed. I tried the exercise with one sentence, then gave up and looked for an easier sentence. Next thing I knew, an hour had passed and I was still reading and re-reading my favorite long sentences from my favorite authors. So forget the exercise. I'm just going to share with you a couple of my favorite long sentences. This one, from All the Pretty Horses, just might be my favorite sentence of all time:

"They heard somewhere in that tenantless night a bell that tolled and ceased where no bell was and they rode out on the round dais of the earth which alone was dark and no light to it and which carried their figures and bore them up into the swarming stars so that they rode not under but among them and they rode at once jaunty and circumspect, like thieves newly loosed in that dark electric, like young thieves in a glowing orchard, loosely jacketed against the cold and ten thousand worlds for the choosing."

And here is my favorite "love scene" sentence, from For Whom the Bell Tolls:

"Then there was the smell of heather crushed and the roughness of the bent stalks under her head and the sun bright on her closed eyes and all his life he would remember the curve of her throat with her head pushed back into the heather roots and her lips that moved smally and by themselves and the fluttering of the lashes on the eyes tight closed against the sun and against everything, and for her everything was red, orange, gold-red from the sun on the closed eyes, and it all was that color, all of it, the filling, the possessing, the having, all of that color, all in a blindness of that color.

Here is the guy's perspective of that same scene:

"For him it was a dark passage which led to nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere, heavy on the elbows in the earth to nowhere, dark, never any end to nowhere, hung on all time always to unknowing nowhere, this time and again for always to nowhere, now not to be borne once again always and to nowhere, now beyond all bearing up, up, up and into nowhere, suddenly, scaldingly, holdingly all nowhere gone and time absolutely still and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them."

Wow. Remember, this was written before "feeling the earth move" was cliche. I think Hemingway -- the old softie -- actually coined the term.


  1. wow - that sentence from All The Pretty Horses is magical. Makes sense that he's a recluse, how could anyone who lives in the day to day bustle of a mundane life come up with something as incredible as that...

  2. I need CliffsNotes for these sentences.