“….how to read well: i.e. slowly, profoundly, attentively, prudently, with inner thoughts, with the mental doors ajar, with delicate fingers and eyes.” Friedrich Nietzsche
“I take no sides. I am interested in the shape of ideas. There is a wonderful sentence in Augustine ‘Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.’ That sentence has a wonderful shape. It’s the shape that matters.” Samuel Beckett
“Sentences are made wonderfully one at a time.” Gertrude Stein
Get one of your favorite novels. Go on. I’ll wait.
Now, flip to the last chapter.
And read the first sentence of that chapter.
Have you ever really paid much attention to that sentence? We don’t hold it in as much esteem as the first sentence of the book (the one that must, apparently, draw the reader in; what pressure). Or as the last sentence of the novel (the one that leaves the lasting impression).
Of course, you might be thinking, we could be drawing our attention to the first sentence of any of the chapters. In fact, to any sentence in the novel.
The very fact of singling out one sentence from a beloved novel achieves my purpose. But, today, I’m asking us to focus on the first sentence of the concluding chapter; the first of the last.
Think about what it means in relation to the storyline. Then, isolate it from the plot, and consider it as a solitary sentence.
Appreciate the author’s word choice (substitute one of the words for a synonym- see how it changes).
Read it aloud.
Maybe it’s not the most interesting sentence in the book, maybe it’s quite beautiful.
Either way, take pause and reflect.
And if you’re so inclined, share that sentence with me.
Here’s mine – from Another Country by James Baldwin, one of my favorite books:
“The sun struck, on steel, on bronze, on stone, on glass, on grey water far beneath them, on the turret tops and the flashing windshields of crawling cars, on the incredible highways, stretching and snarling and turning for mile upon mile upon mile, on the houses, square and high, low and gabled, and on their howling antennae, on the sparse, weak trees, and on those towers, in the distance, of the city of New York.”
I had never really noticed this sentence before. Never noticed its length. It’s almost like a poem.