Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Anatomy of the sentence …

… Simplicity or style: what makes a sentence a masterpiece? | Aeon Ideas. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Some literary stylists bestow greatness on every sentence without tiring their readers. Many readers feel this way about Joyce, but I have always preferred the subtler beauty of the sentences in Dubliners to the obtrusive, slightly show-offy ingenuity that afflicts every sentence in Ulysses: individually each of those sentences may be small masterpieces, but an unrelenting sequence of such sentences is wearisome. Great minimalist sentences – those of the short-story writer Lydia Davis, for instance – may have a longer shelf life.


  1. "every sentence in Ulysses" is a whole lot of every.

    The post caught my eye the more because yesterday I was at Powell's in Portland, and picked up a couple of volumes by Edward Dahlberg.

  2. I re-read Ulysses some years ago and didn't find the sentences at all distracting. In fact, I finished it in Dublin, and I noticed that after just a few days in Dublin it seemed easier to read, and I began to think it really wasn't written in English so much as in Dublinese.