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Greatest sentence ever! Options
Joseph Glantz
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 8:12:42 AM
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Muriel Spark, in her story Portobello Road, wrote the following sentence: "He looked as though he were going to murder me, and he did." The narrator in the story was a ghost.

Anybody have a better literary sentence? If so, please give the sentence and the source.
fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 9:02:16 AM
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It was a dark, stormy night...

WordLover
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 9:22:10 AM
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Yes, it's cliche, but . . .

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . "
The opening sentence of A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
Lindamarie
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 10:22:03 AM
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That is a great one - I now have to add that book to my reading list!

I like this one:
"I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster." from The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.
risadr
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 1:22:34 PM
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"My mother is a fish."

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

Not only is it one of the best sentences in literary history, it's the entire chapter. That's right. One sentence is the entire chapter. If you haven't read this novel, I highly recommend it.
aribad
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 6:53:57 PM
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Lindamarie wrote:
That is a great one - I now have to add that book to my reading list!

I like this one:
"I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster." from The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.


That is hilarious. What is the book like? I may read it just because of that sentence.
WordLover
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 7:43:43 PM
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I thought the same thing, Aribad. With just that one line, I imagined a book with a lot of humor and irony. Isn't it amazing how just one sentence can create such an impression?

These sentences certainly substantiate one of the main rules in writing a book; draw the reader in from the first paragraph.

Joseph, this was a good exercise. I hope to see lots more. Applause
JohnGriffin
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 7:50:37 PM
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I don't remember where I found this. Mom goes upstairs to read a bedtime story to her son.

He says, "What did you bring that book that I don't like to be read to out of up for?"
Epiphileon
Posted: Wednesday, April 8, 2009 5:16:46 PM

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"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time.
Macbeth Act V, Scene V,
Okay, maybe we should take Shakespeare out of the competition.
Lindamarie
Posted: Friday, April 10, 2009 10:51:32 AM
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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I can't describe the book better than this sentence from the back cover: "The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant."

It's not a funny book, although there are some very funny parts. Some of it was very hard to read.

This book really made me re-think about my role as a parent.
Akkuratix
Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009 12:22:54 PM
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In one of my English lessons I was taught: English is nothing but French spoken in Dutch.
Do you agree?
Spahkee
Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009 6:09:38 PM
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Akkuratix wrote:
In one of my English lessons I was taught: English is nothing but French spoken in Dutch.
Do you agree?


Does that question actually need to be dignified with a response? Or perhaps it was merely an incendiary device?

At any rate, the greatest sentence ever, as far as I'm concerned, can't be stated. Our English language is so very subjective, flexible and diverse. For the sake of Akkuratix: 'Culturally diverse'.

Were I forced to offer up a sentence, "One man's trash is another man's treasure.", may very well be my reply.
TB
Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009 11:43:02 PM
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"We need a bigger boat"

from the movie Jaws

(Sorry, just having fun; I'll try to behave Dancing )
TB
Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009 11:45:28 PM
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"We need a bigger boat"

from the movie Jaws
Spahkee
Posted: Monday, April 13, 2009 6:44:03 PM
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"He had secreted it about his person. Therefore I shot him..." The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes - Kipling

This one, partial, sentence has stayed with me over the years...

In a previous post I mentioned not being able to come up with a 'Greatest Sentence Ever' (nor would I try to). It's just that this one has stayed with me. If, in a purely subjective fashion, 'staying power' bespeaks 'greatness', it certainly deserves my mentioning of it here.
cavarden
Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 2:17:50 PM
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JohnGriffin wrote:
I don't remember where I found this. Mom goes upstairs to read a bedtime story to her son.

He says, "What did you bring that book that I don't like to be read to out of up for?"

Along this line (or as the opposite of it), I would quote Winston Churchill: "Ending sentences with prepositions is one of those things up with which I will not put."
fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 4:43:55 PM
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Four score and seven years ago...
early_apex
Posted: Monday, April 20, 2009 4:53:48 PM
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"Shut up, she explained."
Debra Fine Home Decor
Posted: Saturday, June 21, 2014 12:57:10 AM

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From Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian: this sentence gave me a vision of literary godhood. It’s from the point of view of a bunch of ragged cowboys who have noticed a band of Comanches coming toward them from the distance. These cowboys (land pirates, really) are about meet near-total annihilation:


A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained weddingveil and some in headgear of cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that bore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or saber done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon the ground and their horses’ ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse’s whole head was painted crimson red and all the horsemen’s faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of Christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.
IMcRout
Posted: Saturday, June 21, 2014 3:44:01 AM
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"Ilsebill salzte nach." - Günter Grass, Der Butt (The Flounder) The English translation {"Ilsebill put on more salt."} doesn't quite have it.
Romany
Posted: Saturday, June 21, 2014 8:26:15 AM
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Akkuratix wrote:
In one of my English lessons I was taught: English is nothing but French spoken in Dutch.
Do you agree?

While one can see what the point of making that statement was, historically it's not quite true. Yep - there are still communities in the Netherlands who speak a language very close to Old English....but one usually goes further back in history and refers to the Germanic tongue as the basis of "Englisch" as it was originally called. And from about 12th to the 13th century one might think that the (official) language was 'nothing but French wrapped up in (German.)(However, 'Englisch' went on developing throughout the land).

But once Early Modern English began to take hold it would be impossible to restrict its roots purely to the French. Latin, Greek, began to hold sway, and by the 17th century influences on the language came from Persian, Arabic, Native American, Malayan, Indian, etc.etc.

Perhaps this is why Spahkee felt the quote didn't deserve a response: it's not just simplistic but historically incorrect.
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