Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stanley Fish Wants YOUR Favorite Literary Sentences!

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One by Stanley FishStanley Fish, New York Times columnist and author of How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One teaches students how to appreciate and celebrate the art of language and rhetoric through personal reflections on some of his favorite sentences in literary history. Slate's blog, Brow Beat recently featured Fish discussing his Top Five Sentences, which he selected from three centuries work.

Now Fish and Brow Beat are looking to see what others' favorite sentences are. From now until midnight Thursday readers can submit their favorite sentences—along with their analysis of what makes the sentence work so well—in the "comments" section of the post. Stanley Fish will pick the best submission and the winner will be announced on the blog. Good luck!

As for my favorite sentence? This was a difficult challenge to tackle as I found myself wishing I had my collection of favorite books in front of me and all the time in the world to carefully contemplate. With limited resources, however, I was fortunate enough to stumble across the, perhaps, most famous line from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye:

“What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.”

Perhaps no sentence captures this theme, and the book’s overall message, better than the one above. Holden is at that awkward time in a teenager’s life where he finds himself with one foot stretching towards his adult future and the other still strongly rooted in the not-so-distant-past of his childhood. Here he fantasizes about being the savior for the children of the world, keeping them from falling off the “cliff” into the adult world. In his confused and emotional mind he would be maintaining their innocence, something no one bothered to do for him.

Praise for How to Write a Sentence:

“Both deeper and more democratic than The Elements of Style.”—Financial Times

“A guided tour through some of the most beautiful, arresting sentences in the English language.”—

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