Since my last “News” bulletin, only one creative piece has managed to escape from my computer. It was a remembrance of things past as I approached an interesting milestone: receiving my Medicare card. (No madeleines were involved.) The piece was posted on Humor Outcasts: Crushing It.
I wish I had more to report for March, although I wasn’t completely idle. I wrote a half dozen biographical profiles that will be of interest to Princeton alumni when they vote this spring for alumni trustees to the University’s board. The profiles do not have entertainment value. Instead, I am going to use this space to share my admiration for Sarah Ruhl, the American playwright who, among many other things, was nominated for a Tony Award and was a finalist for a Pulitzer for her play “In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play).” She is also on the faculty at Yale School of Drama and is a wonderful essayist. In 2014, she published 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write. The subtitle is “On umbrellas and sword fights, parades and dogs, fire alarms, children and theater,” and that’s only a partial list of topics. The essays (in addition to being envy-enducing) are engaging, entertaining, and in many instances enlightening. Essay #13 is “The drama of the sentence,” a meditation on the power of individual sentences, on the importance of how “word follows word,” transcending just the telling of a story. (Sam Anderson in his “New Sentences” column in the “New York Times Magazine” also focuses on the power of a single sentence.)
Below are two sentences that I’ve saved as examples of the power a careful arrangement of word following word can have:
“What was odd about Auntie Andy, I realised, was that her shyness had been blasted out of her by whatever had happened, the way an explosion can leave people deaf afterwards.” (From Tessa Hadley’s Clever Girl.)
“Lynwood was malevolent, truculent, and brittle, and it seemed as if one were always in midsentence with him, as if the subject had been lost but the verb was firing like a crazed piston so that one might perceive the action but not the context.” (From Kenneth A. McClane’s essay “Sparrow Needy” in The Best American Essays 2017.)