I know not all of you love sentences the way I do. But when you see a beautiful thing (or hear it or taste it or smell it) and you’re alone in your appreciation, isn’t it the most natural thing in the world to want to share it? Elaine Scarry, in her book On Beauty and Being Just, argued that humans want to experience beauty and then share that experience with someone else. How do we share beauty? By taking photographs; by repeating stories, anecdotes, jokes; by making art; by making love; by having children; by teaching; by reading poems out loud; by writing. I am, as Stanley Fish says, a lover of sentences, so I will use this space to share with you whenever they sparkle so bright they must be shared. Here, from John Berger’s Here is Where we Meet:
“The river, full of swirls, fast-flowing, metallic-looking in the sunlight, is less than twenty metres wide” (129).
The basic sentence is: The river … is less than twenty metres wide. The verb is to be–a faux pas for writers, supposedly. Yet this sentence has a lovely rhythm and precision to it, so the “to be” slips away in the eddies of the river, unnoticed. We didn’t need a fabulous verb here; we had swirls and flows and metal, which was enough.