Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Simple Sentence

Dear Toni Morrison,

I am in the middle of love, no, Love, I mean, the book. I'm always in the middle of love. I'm lucky that way.

I wanted to talk to you about sentences. You have a power in your sentence construction. For example, just one, though I could identify so many.

"It might help the new woman convert her own rental in his arms to a longer lease."

Wow, what a sentence. You have, in 17 words, pinned down so many things. Christine's action,* designed to send a message, was intercepted and watered down by the new woman. You have, in a sentence, set up a metaphor, established the complexity of a human dynamic filled with longing and hope, turned the metaphor and then crushed that hope by implication. You are masterful.

I want to talk about another powerful sentence too. And it's from story about love, one as hard your's always are, harder maybe, but with a turn of a phase that establishes hope rather than dashing it.

Girls go to school safely. They are kept girls too. Kept in an insulated community, in a tiny school filled with knowns and expecteds. A man fights insanity and loses the battle. His entrance into the school is unexpected and explosive and tragic. The story is documented on the front pages everywhere. I don't need a footnote.

But I'm taken by the short sentence and wonder at it. "I forgive," he said, the farmer in the dark clothing.

And not just by the words, but by the subsequent acts, recorded quietly because the usual media circus was short-circuited by a quiet community, I, the world, was convinced that this man and these people knew a thing or two about love. And though I am sure I do not, now, hold inside me the depth of spirit exhibited by these plainfolk, I have seen love enough, from mother, father, husband, child, friend, relative, and stranger, that I am certain they have chosen the path of love.

Every time I read your works, I am impressed by your sentences. When I read the short paragraph framed by an ill-spoken farmer, I was in awe.


*Christine was a jilted, "kept woman" whose response was to destroy the jilter's automobile. His "new woman" protected the man from the enormity of the ruin and the power of what a displaced woman could do.

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