One Great Sentence

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“Before the aurora borealis appears, the sensitive needles of compasses all over the world are restless for hours, agitating on their pins in airplanes and ships, trembling in desk drawers, in attics, in boxes on shelves.”

By One Great Sentence November 15, 2017

Why is it great? I admire the way Dillard turns a piece of natural science into a narrative of anticipation during which no human being makes an entrance.  The aurora borealis, better known as the northern lights, is a spectacular … Read more

“Then away out in the woods I heard that kind of a sound that a ghost makes when it wants to tell about something that’s on its mind and can’t make itself understood, and so can’t rest easy in its grave, and has to go about that way every night grieving.”

By One Great Sentence October 30, 2017

Why is it great? For Halloween, I decided to use this wonderfully spooky line from Mark Twain (who in his writing and his speaking was a true master of the Great Sentence). Starting with the rhythm of “away out in … Read more

“I know all about reporters, Walter. A lot of daffy buttinskis running around without a nickel in their pockets and for what? So a million hired girls and motormen’s wives’ll know what’s going on.”

By One Great Sentence September 20, 2017

Why is it great? Yes, it’s three sentences. But it’s one brilliant summation of journalists, from the best-written movie about journalists of all time. God, the banter in the screenplay! I love how this line has hilarious putdowns like “daffy … Read more

“If the history of the earth’s tides should one day be written by some observer of the universe, it would no doubt be said that they reached their greatest grandeur and power in the younger days of Earth, and that they slowly grew feebler and less imposing until one day they ceased to be.”

By One Great Sentence September 13, 2017

Why is it great? Few authors have written as magnificently about nature as Rachel Carson, and this sentence is a good example.  Its strength is not in form but content.  It revealed to me something I did not know — … Read more

“Sometimes at noon down South on the hottest of days, when everyone is shivering inside their arctic offices, I go outside just to hear the metallic whirring of the cicadas start up in the trees on the edge of the parking lot. Their tymbals pulsate against their abdomens and the thick air reverberates with the loneliest sound in the universe.”

By One Great Sentence August 30, 2017

In addition to the music of Blythe’s lush language, I love how he captures this brash paradox–that a chorus can make us feel so lonely. Furthermore I love how, like a quintessential writer, he stations himself on an edge between … Read more