Best Sentence Saturday — #3

yakimaReporting this week from the road and posting from a phone. Forgive the typos, my thumbs are too big for this “keyboard”. This week something new and some things old. All good though.

We’re big fans of the short story here at Iron Twine Press, so we’re always excited to hear about a new collection. This week we’ve been learning about Nicole Hartounian’s debut collection Speed Dreaming available now. You can read one of the stories, “Youse”, at The Center for Fiction. “Youse” is, on the surface, a gentle and touching coming-of-age story, but there’s a dark sadness beneath the surface. Rae, the main character is still reeling from a tragedy that occurs before the story begins but serves as the inciting incident and leaves her quietly careening like a deflating balloon sputtering in descending circles around a room. We liked the pace and the urgency and the vividness of this sentence:

When a hand touches her shoulder, she screams, her mother screams, the secretary, maybe, screams—it is surround-sound panic until Rae leaps to her feet, turns, sees Joanna standing there, leaves stuck to the side of her hair, but there, in the flesh, screaming, too.

“Surround-sound panic” is a great phrase.

Congratulations to Nicole Hartounian. You can find her on Twitter @NicoleHrtn

Now some older things:

Langston Hughes, Salvation:

I began to wonder what God thought about Westley, who certainly hadn’t seen Jesus either, but who was now sitting proudly on the platform, swinging his knickerbockered legs and grinning down at me, surrounded by deacons and old women on their knees praying. God had not struck Westley dead for taking his name in vain or for lying in the temple. So I decided that maybe to save further trouble, I’d better lie, too, and say that Jesus had come, and get up and be saved.

So I got up.

Suddenly the whole room broke into a sea of shouting, as they saw me rise. Waves of rejoicing swept the place. Women leaped in the air. My aunt threw her arms around me. The minister took me by the hand and led me to the platform.

It’s a comical image, but in the context of the whole piece it reveals how deception has the power to validate and to torture at the same time. Hughes’ prose is, of course, as infused with poetic brilliance as any one of his poems. I’m so glad he’s still being read.

And finally, on this week of the 90th anniversary of the publishing of The Great Gatsby we would be remiss (and embarrassed to call ourselves book people) if we didn’t share our favorite passage from that Great American Novel:

We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.

Hard to say what it is about that passage…just the breeze blowing the curtains in at one end and out at the other. You can feel it, smell it, hear the quiet of it….every time I read that passage my breath catches, somehow I feel I have touched the heart of Fitzgerald’s novel in that one simple moment.

Keep on reading! And get ready, in future posts I might ask you to share the best sentences you’ve read in the past week.

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