I saw a post the other day on “50 of the most beautiful sentences in literature.”
I liked many of these but this is a long way from any list I’d put together. For example, one choice on the list was: “She was lost in her longing to understand.” From Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s, Love in the Time of Cholera. The problem with this, for me, is that it’s obvious. There’s nothing profound. It seems almost cliché.
Another weak one, to me, was: “Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.” From Nicole Krauss, The History of Love. This seems maudlin to me, and cliché. I don’t like it at all.
On the other hand, some that I did like were: “In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.” From Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. This is lovely. It resonates to me. It evokes a sense of history and place. It wouldn’t make my list of 50 favorites but it’s good.
I also liked “Isn’t it pretty to think so, by Ernest Hemingway, from The Sun Also Rises. But my favorite on this list was: “Let the Wild Rumpus Start,” By Maurice Sendak from Where the Wild Things Are. This was Josh’s favorite book when he was a kid and I loved, loved, loved reading it to him. This one would certainly make my list.
So what would be some of my other personal favorites? Well, many of them would come from Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, which is my favorite book of all time. Here are a few:
“Figures dark beneath their loads pass down the far bank of the river, rendered immortal by the streak of sunset upon their shoulders.”
“We have outsmarted ourselves, like greedy monkeys, and now we are full of dread.”
“Left alone, I am overtaken by the northern void—no wind, no cloud, no track, no bird, only the crystal crescents between peaks, the ringing monuments of rock that, freed from the talons of ice and snow, thrust an implacable being into the blue.”
“In the gaunt, brown face in the mirror—unseen since late September—the blue eyes in a monkish skull seem eerily clear, but this is the face of a man I do not know.”
“At dusk, white egrets flapped across the sunken clouds, now black with rain; on earth, the dark had come.”
“In the early light, the rock shadows on the snow are sharp; in the tension between light and dark is the power of the universe.”
“The mountains have no ‘meaning,’ they are meaning; the mountains are.”
“My foot slips on a narrow ledge; in that split second, as needles of fear pierce heart and temples, eternity intersects with present time.”
“In his first summers, forsaking all his toys, my son would stand rapt for nearly an hour in his sandbox in the orchard, as doves and redwings came and went on the warm wind, the leaves dancing, the clouds flying…”