a tribute to good sentences.
(by Pamela Imperial on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 3:36am)
Years ago, I would spend hours reading blogs - official blogs, personal blogs, blogs of friends, strangers, acquaintances, blogs of some famous people - that sometimes, it would be weird when I would first meet a person then realize afterwards that I have read that person’s blog. My friend scolded me once for being a voyeur and a stalker. I balked, and insisted firmly that I am a WORD VOYEUR which - tut, tut - is a very different thing. A voyeur/stalker is someone interested solely in a blogger’s life. A word voyeur on the other hand gets hooked on a blogger’s way of writing. Although I have that side of me who is a stickler for grammar and punctuation, a bigger part of me is more forgiving, and is more interested in how a person uses words. I love words. I am in love with words, and with the magic that makes words blend together beautifully, like colors on canvas. (I’m getting kilig just thinking about it!) I think it’s miraculous that each person has his or her own way of writing, of using words. I think it’s also this infatuation with words, that makes me love Filipino/Tagalog. I am not a master of it, but I think it’s an extremely rich language. I love that ‘GIGIL’ means what it means, and that I cannot find an English equivalent for it. “NANGGIGIGIL AKO.” Isn’t that so clear that you can actually physicalize it?
Anyhoo, a few weeks back, a good friend (BENNY! yoohoo! winkwink!) told me to get back to writing. During Holy Week, I perused through old livejournal entries, and came across an old entry I wrote about ‘good sentences’. As I love words like colors, thus ‘good sentences’ are the paintings I behold and marvel them in. A good sentence for me, is that miraculous combination of words that HITS you right THERE. (chez!) Seriously though, I think this is why I love Rilke. His book alone, ‘Letters to A Young Poet’, is a TREASURE TROVE of good sentences.
So why all the fuss over sentences? In my attempt to get back into the writing groove, I wanted to resurrect parts of that old livejournal entry, and pay tribute to these that I love so much. :-) I am adding parts of that old post below, mainly because those sentences that blew me away before, still leave me agog right now.
(Oh and perhaps an invitation for you to share your own ‘good sentences’? I’m salivating. Haha!)
At that time, more than four years ago, I had come across a blog entry entitled ‘Appreciating a Good Sentence’, which intrigued me so much that from that moment on, I began taking a mental note of every good sentence I encountered.
The second sentence I liked took my breath away. From the first chapter of The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles, this sentence described one of the main characters of the novel, Kit Moresby:
“Small, with blonde hair and olive complexion, she was saved from prettiness by the intensity of her gaze. Once one had seen her eyes, the rest of the face grew vague, and when one tried to recall her image afterwards, only the piercing, questioning violence of her eyes remained.”
Wow. My mind is still scrambling to form a picture of what Kit’s face might be like.
Let me digress for a bit to describe my book-buying process. If it is a familiar bookstore, I usually follow a route that starts with the new displays, on to the children’s section, next the graphic novels, then fantasy, then poetry, then classics, and then last, modern fiction. I may either linger on each section, or repeat the route two or three times, browsing and choosing (though most times I just do a lot of sighing and wishing and exclaiming and digesting and generally enjoying). If there’s time, I quickly browse through the discount bins and the rest of the sections. My route, however, doesn’t signify any order of reading preference; it is just a habit formed over time. I like being thorough and taking my time, so it’s a good thing that the Philippine Book Fair only comes once a year. Haha.
When it comes to choosing a specific book, several factors come into play: the cover, awards won, recommendations from friends, blurb, author, inclusion in published lists, and price. However, my final judgment call comes from the reading of the first two-three sentences – which was what happened with Tuck Everlasting. If these first sentences grab me then THAT’S IT. I immediately purchase or, (which is more the actual case) I bring it to Customer Service to reserve, fully knowing that I have NO IDEA when and how I can purchase the book. Other times, when I am more of my sane self, I sigh, and put it back on the shelf while adding it to my mental library of wishes.
Going back, the purchase of Tuck Everlasting was influenced by the first paragraph of the Prologue:
“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.”
Reading this makes me put my breathing on pause. I immediately delve into a motionless time, even if I have had no experience of spring and autumn and the in-between. Maybe it is because I HAVE felt the first week of August. I think many of us have felt it this year. With Christmas and the new year coming, it feels strangely like the eye of the storm, the peak of the ride, that pause before the dive – we all wait patiently with bated breath.
Damn. Good sentence, Babbit.