The editors of American Scholar have chosen “Ten Best Sentences” from literature, and readers have suggested many more. They threw in an eleventh for good measure. This lovely feature caught me in the middle of a new book project, “Art of X-ray Reading,” in which I take classic passages such as these and look beneath the surface of the text. If I can see the machinery working down there, I can reveal it to writers, who can then add to their toolboxes.
With respect and gratitude to American Scholar, I offer brief interpretations below on how and why these sentences work.
Pretty standard stuff here, and while I think Clark’s “explanations” rely a bit too much on the context of the novel, he does dip into some actual craft talk.