This Week in Great Sentence

One sentence from “Let the Great World Spin,” by Colum McCann. You should consider not reading the below if you are planning to read this book, and, since I am now informing you that you should very much read this book, this entire post is moot and I just spent a long time transcribing this for no apparent reason:


Yet the plain fact of the matter is that it happened and there was nothing we could do to stop it—Corrigan at the wheel of the van, having spent asll day down in the Tombs and the courtrooms of lower Manhattan, driving north up along the FDR, with Jazzlyn beside him in the passenger seat, her yellow high heels and her neon swimsuit, her choker tight around her neck, and Tillie had been locked away on a robbery charge, she had taken the rap, and my brother was giving Jazzlyn a lift back to her kids, who were more than keyrings, more than a flip in the air, and they were going fast along the East River, hemmed in by the buildings and the shadows, when Corrigan went to change lanes, maybe he hit the indicator maybe he didn’t, maybe he was dizzy or tired or out of sorts, maybe he’d gotten some medicine that slowed him or fogged his vision, maybe he tapped the brake, maybe he cut it too hard, maybe he was gently humming a bit of a tune, who knows, but it was said that he was clipped in the rear by a fancy car, some old antique, nobody saw the driver, a gold vehicle going about its everyday applause of itself, it caught the back end of his van, nudged it slightly, but it sent Corrigan into a spin across all three lanes, like some big brown dancing thing, elegant for a split second, and I think now of Corrigan gripping the steering wheel, frightened, his eyes large and tender, while Jazzlyn beside him screamed, and her body tightened, her neck tensed, it all flashing in front of her—her short vicious life—and the van skidded on the dry roadway, hit a car, hit a newspaper truck, and then smashed headlong into the guardrail at the edge of the highway, and Jazzlyn went head-first through the windshield, no safety belt, a body already on its way to heaven, and Corrigan was smashed back by the steering wheel, which caught his chest and shattered his breastbone, his head rebounding off the spidery glass, bloody, and then he was whipped back into the seat with such force that the metal frame of the seat shattered, a thousand pounds of moving steel, the van still spinning from one side of the road to the other, and Jazzyln’s body, only barely dressed, made a flying arc through the air, fifty or sixty miles per hour, and she smashed in a crumpled heap by the guardrail, one foot bent in the air as if stepping upwards, or wanting to step upwards, and the only thing of hers they found later in the van was a yellow stiletto, with a Bible sitting canted right beside it, having fallen out of the glove compartment, one on top of the other and both of them littered with glass, and Corrigan, still breathing, was bounced around and smashed sideways so that he finished up with his body twisted down in the dark well by the accelerator and the brake, and the engine whirled as if it still wanted to go fast and be stopped at the same time, all of Corrigan’s weight on both pedals.

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