Beautiful Sentences: Beth Ann Fennelly

I want to paint in a foreign language.

Beth Ann Fennelly, “Berthe Morisot: Retrospective”


Beautiful Sentences: David Gilbert

He seemed a veteran of—I don’t know, adolescence, I suppose, which like all wars is particular to the combatant.

David Gilbert, & Sons.


Beautiful Sentences: Kevin Sampsell

Those teen years are when the scars happen. The scars you have to tend to the rest of your life, hoping they heal or fade away.
Kevin Sampsell, “I’m Jumping Off the Bridge”

Beautiful Sentences: David Gilbert

She had reasonable good looks, like many a reasonable girl at Exeter, the product themselves of reasonable mothers, always with dark hair never cut too short and surprisingly bad teeth—if not crooked, then yellow; if not yellow, then with large gums—and with naturally UV-protected skin, glasses almost mandatory but stylishly framed (their most overt fashion choice), bodies solid but never fat, athletic from those reasonable genes that had survived past feminine hardship and now chased field hockey balls instead of wayward sheep, this type of reasonableness not necessarily smart but often very focused, and not guaranteed plain Janes because there was plenty of sex appeal and humor in that reason, a sharpness that stood in contrast to the groundless swell around them. so that these girls, these women with their chunky jaws and dirt-brown eyes and honest opinions of themselves, held the secret of their own common sense, which, if discovered, would shock you blind. These women often work in publishing.

David Gilbert, & Sons.


“An Outsider”: The Story Behind the Story

This is another story which has been kicking around for a while before it finally was published, Back in the ‘90s, I submitted this to Story, received a hand-written rejection letter and didn’t realize that was a sign I was onto something and didn’t do anything more with the piece for years.

This story has gone through more rounds of revision than anything else I’ve written (other than my ill-fated and now-trunked  novel). For a while it began with a dodgeball game, the count of players in which I was never able to get right despite my best efforts. Then one workshop participant pointed out that the story really began a bit later and that “I don’t know how the story about the witch began” would make for an awesome opening line.

I was on the verge of putting this story aside one more time when the call for Dear America came in my e-mail and I decided I’d toss this one out to see if maybe with such a specialized call it might find an audience and it finally did.

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Beautiful Sentences: James Wood

The acceptance of this kind of writing is dangerous not because anybody will confuse it with life, will think, “This is what life is like,” but because readers may read it and think, “This is what literature is like.”

James Wood, “Tom Wolfe’s Shallowness, and the Trouble with Information.”


Beautiful Sentences: John Fowles

If you want to be true to life, start lying about the reality of it.

John Fowles, “Notes on an Unfinished Novel.”


Beautiful Sentences: John Updike

Real life now commences, they are informed; the Eden of public education has shut its garden gate. A garden, Levy reflects, of rote teaching dully ignored, of the vicious and ignorant dominating the timid and dutiful, but a garden nevertheless, a weedy patch of hopes, a rough and ill-tilled seedbed of what this nation wants itself to be.

John Updike, Terrorist.


The Big Countdown

My number went back up to 87 from 83, which is still less than my pre-drop life expectancy, but close enough that I can consider last year’s drop to be the anomaly, although I can still do more to improve my health and perhaps get a little bit more time with my family.

In the last year I’ve had a few publications (including my first poems) and started working on a new novel which is coming slowly but I think is some good stuff. I’ve also officially let my first novel fall into the status of being trunked (although I still have stacks of marked up manuscript lurking near my desk which should get collected and put into a box in the basement for my children to deal with in 38 years).

Beautiful Sentences: Harry Levin

The history of the realistic novel shows that fiction tends towards autobiography. The increasing demands for social and psychological detail that are made upon the novelist can only be satisfied out of his own experience. The forces which make him an outsider focus his observation upon himself.

Harry Levin, James Joyce: A Critical Introduction.