Sentence as Book

Possibly inspired by the publication of Zone, Ed Park runs down some 1-sentence novels and variations thereof.

For some writers, a chapter-long sentence is eternity enough. The Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt was inspired to write “The Assignment” (1986), his superbly paranoid late-career “novella in 24 sentences,” after listening to a recording of Glenn Gould playing the first 24 movements of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier.” (At 129 pages, that’s an average of 5.375 pages per sentence.) Here, the constraint sets up the potential for improvisation off a single musical line, while also allowing for clean breaks. The American writer Laird Hunt consciously adapted Dürrenmatt’s method in “Ray of the Star” (2009), in which a traumatic episode shadows a shell-shocked man’s sojourn in an unnamed foreign city. The man suffers from restless leg syndrome, and the affliction’s self-engendering quality (“the greater his fatigue the more pronounced it grew”) finds a mirror in Hunt’s labyrinthine sentences.


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