This might be my favorite sentence this year. I wish I paid more attention to favorite sentences. I wish I marked them and collected them into a little pile. I’m not sure what last year’s favorite sentence would be, but it would have probably come from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
The context for this sentence goes like this: the narrator, an older man who lives in London with is wife, is convinced that she’s having an affair with a young, Chilean man. The narrator decides to leave London with the notion that somehow this might allow the truth of his wife’s infidelity to manifest itself. He goes off to Frankfurt for a few days and tries to keep busy, but repeatedly finds himself obsessing about her, the Chilean, the two of them together, what might be, what is. Here, he is ruminating anew:
“I sat at the table staring into the greasy food and waited for the tears to come, even wishing them to come, so that I might unburden myself of something, because as things stood I felt so heavy and tired that I couldn’t see any way to move. But they didn’t come, and so I continued to sit there hour after hour watching the unrelenting rain slosh against the glass, thinking of our life together, Lotte’s and mine, how everything in it was designed to give a sense of permanence, the chair against the wall that was there when we went to sleep and there again when we awoke, the little habits that quoted from the day before and predicted the day to come, though in truth it was all just an illusion, just as solid matter is an illusion, just as our bodies are an illusion, pretending to be one thing when really they are millions of atoms coming and going, some arriving while others are leaving us forever, as if each of us were only a great train station, only not even that since at least in a train station the stones and the tracks and the glass roof stay still while everything else rushes through it, no, it was worse than that, more like a giant empty field where every day a circus erected and dismantled itself, the whole thing from top to bottom, but never the same circus, so what hope did we really have of ever making sense of ourselves, let alone one another?”
Ok, that was two sentences. But really the first was like a helper sentence. That’s why I included it.
The sentence(s) come from Nicole Krauss’ latest, Great House. In the few writing workshops I’ve taken over the years, I have heard again and again that if you want to immerse yourself more fully in a writer – to feel deeply, through them, where that place is that creativity is born – then you should make it a physical experience. You should read their words out loud, or type the prose that they have typed. It’s a way to create connection, they say. It’s the way to become better.
If that’s true, this is the sentence that I would pick. I feel like this sentence says so much about everything. This is the sentence I would read and type over and over again.