Sentence Lover

Tyler Cowen writes:

I have an irrational fondness for this sentence of Mann’s:

The First World War distracted governments from the task of monitoring insect movements.

The sentence from Charles C. Mann is quite good, but Cowen’s sentence is better: it encapsulates his exuberance for the written word and for heterodox points of view. (And of course, it includes Mann’s sentence, so it’s kind of a twofer. Like Tom Townsend’s callow claim in Metropolitan: “I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists’ ideas as well as the critics’ thinking.”)

If you look around the internet, his “good sentences” trope is everywhere. In this exuberance for the epigrammatic, he has something in common with the science-fiction writer Samuel R. Delany:

I begin, a sentence lover. I’m forever delighted, then delighted all over, at the things sentences can trip and trick you into saying, into seeing. I’m astonished—just plain tickled!—at the sharp turns and tiny tremors they can whip your thoughts across. I’m entranced by their lollop and flow, their prickles and points. Poetry is made of words, Mallarmé told us a hundred years back. But I write prose. And prose is made of sentences.

More good sentences from Delany.





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