Sunday, September 13, 2009

Best Sentence I Have Read

"I am no one, nothing. I am an abstraction, an emotion, the ooze of terror, the sweat of horror, the shake in the air when a scream has departed."

That is probably the best sentence I read all year, and possibly in all of my recent memory.

A few months ago, Carlo Rotella profiled Jack Vance in the NY Times. Jack Vance is a respected fantasy and science fiction writer. I picked up his book, "The Dying Earth", using PaperBackSwap. It had a ridiculous cover, a man holding a flower up to a woman on horseback, which reminded my wife of a romance novel.

Inside "The Dying Earth" were six stories the likes of which I had never encountered before. Maybe this is because I don't normally read fantasy novels (I had read "Lord of the Rings" and the "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" back in high school), but each of these stories were, well, fantastical and jaw-dropping. Huge heads living inside walls of an ancient museum. Magic spells that render people invisible. Creatures being created inside of large vats. I read the book with a loony grin on my face half the time: "This is fun!"

And the writing is probably the most lyrical I have read in some time. Consider this: "I respond to three questions. For twenty terces I phrase the answer in clear and actionable language; for ten I use the language of cant, which occasionally admits of ambiguity; for five, I speak a parable which you must interpret as you will; and for one terce, I babble in an unknown tongue." That made me laugh out loud, so twisted and pointed was its meaning.

Jack Vance is 92, and The Dying Earth was written in 1950. Check it out, if you want to read a novel with a highly memorable writing style.

No comments:

Post a Comment