This Week in Great Sentences

As Lou Gehrig’s disease sapped Joshua Thompson of his ability to move and speak last fall, he consistently summoned one question from within the prison of his own body. “Iplex,” he asked, in a whisper that pierced his mother’s heart. “When?”

Amy Harmon, NYT, “Fighting for a Chance to Live,” 5/16/09

Though I typically despise ledes that start with “as” (once had an editor who would kick his rolling chair backwards and start making beeping noises, saying “WHOA!! Watch out! Backing into a lede here!”), Harmon uses it efficiently. The Times has some prosaic and eloquent writers and reporters, but it’s often at its best using plain language and subtle, honest imagery to convey a story’s meaning; in this case, the frustrations dealing with the pharmaceutical regulatory system.


You didn’t just watch a double feature but steeped like a tea bag in the contemplative dungeon atmosphere.

James Walcott, VF, Splendor in the Grit (on NYC in the 70s), June 09

Walcott writes here about the sense of adventure in discovering dingy basement theaters or obscure screens across the city that New York cinemaphiles used be forced to endure. The experiences of poor sight lines, dicey crowds and unfamiliar neighborhoods served as a companion piece to the art at hand, an experience that’s been lost with the invention of Criterion Collection and Netflix and everything else, he argues. I don’t particularly agree with his point as I think he overreaches in romanticizing the grit of New York in the 1970s (a better class of grit than it would be if the city is pushed back down the slope by the recession, he says), but he paints great word pictures.


I burned The Misanthrope set while we lay naked on this mattress in front of the fireplace, sipping sparkline rose out of matching hollow-stemmed champagne glasses and listening to the Fantasia on Greensleves.

Spalding Gray, “College Girls,” from the unfortunately titled, but still worth reading, book Drinking, Smoking, Screwing: Great Writers on Good Times, 1994

Casually anarchistic. Formally awesome.

2 responses to “This Week in Great Sentences

  1. Nothing that comes from here would ever qualify. I wish there were still editors who would teach writers about language and impact.,0,2436373.story

  2. I actually know the guy who took the New York Times photos: Casey Templeton, who I interned with at The Roanoke Times. Dude kills it in wedding photography now.

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