Long Sentences

That ability—to graft theme into syntax—is what makes great writing a pleasure to listen to. The German expat novelist, W.G. Sebald, became a literary hero for his unclassifiable books The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, and Austerlitz not long before his early death 10 years ago. He offers a splendid example of what Fish calls “the subordinate style,” in which time and causality are organized into clear hierarchies at the sentence level. His ruminative, meandering sentences (“After I had made an appointment to meet Austerlitz the next day Pereria, having inquired after my wishes, led me upstairs to the first floor and showed me into a room containing a great deal of wine-red velvet, brocade, and dark mahogany furniture, where I sat until almost three in the morning at a secretaire faintly illuminated by the street lighting—the cast-iron radiator clicked quietly, and only occasionally did a black cab drive past outside in Liverpool Street—writing down, in the form of notes and disconnected sentences, as much as possible of what Austerlitz had told me that evening”) are almost too long to quote here. Sebald’s themes, like Proust’s, are memory and loss. What makes his books remarkable is that he reproduces the experience of having memories and losing them in the course of single sentences, like the one above, which often seem to forget their origins, slide off into an associative drift, and then attempt to recoup themselves, just as we attempt to hold together the memories and narratives that make up our sense of self. He’s a maximalist whose prose would drive Strunk & White to distraction (when they wrote, “Make the paragraph the unit of composition,” they didn’t have in mind 400-page paragraphs).

More at Slate.



Recent Posts




Criticism Isn't Free


CR is dedicated to thoughtful, in-depth criticism without regard to what's commercially appealing. It takes tens of hours each month to provide this. Please help make this sort of writing sustainable, either with a subscription or a one-time donation. Thank you!

You could also purchase one of my acclaimed ebooks.





Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

THE SURRENDER

The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


LADY CHATTERLEY'S BROTHER

Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


THE LATIN AMERICAN MIXTAPE

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2018. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.