Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some notes on "One Sentence Says It All"

After my essay ( "One Sentence Says It All") came out on Sunday, I was alerted to some other Very Long Sentences.

1) On her blog, translator Lisa Hayden Espenchade mentioned a recent one-sentencer, "Alain Mabanckou’s very readable and funny Broken Glass, translated from the French by Helen Stevenson."

2) Ashur Etwebi, a Libyan poet and novelist, told me about his novel Dardanin, published in Cairo in 2001, which consists of one 113-page sentence. "Many Libyan critics dealt with it as wast[ed] writing. For me I wanted to see if it can be done and I think yes it can be done, but then you maybe will be the only reader." (As a character says in Joseph Weisberg's novel 10th Grade, VTS—Very True Statement.)

3) The novelist Richard Grossman e-mailed me about the 70-page (!) sentence fragment in his novel The Book of Lazarus.

4) My friend Sung J. Woo Facebook-posted me (is that a term?) about Donald Barthelme's story "Sentence," of which Lorrie Moore wrote:

Language is seen as having its own random and self-generating vital life, a subject he takes on explicitly in the story “Sentence,” which is one long never-ending sentence, full of self-interruptions and searching detours and not quite dead ends (like human DNA itself, with its inert, junk viruses), concluding with the words “a structure to be treasured for its weakness as opposed to the strength of stones.”
(Another VTS.)

5) Finally (??), Patrick Ahern e-mailed me: "Camilo José Cela wrote a 303-page one-sentence book called Cristo versus Arizona. It is in Spanish and was published in 1988 by Plaza y Janes of Barcelona. It has no chapter (or other) breaks. There is a period at the end." (I have a Cela somewhere on my shelves...but it's not this one.)

I'm hoping people will turn up more...e-mail me at info@ed-park.com if you've got other favorites that I didn't mention...


Other notes: I originally planned to write about books that were one sentence or one paragraph long, and wanted to use this line of Gertrude Stein as a lede: "A Sentence is not emotional a paragraph is". I soon realized that I had my hands full, and thought it best to stick to the former. (Also, I was still trying to figure out what Stein meant—no surprise!)

I did manage to read two one-paragraphers for the piece before closing that route): Roberto Bolaño's By Night in Chile (amazing) and Jean-Christophe Valtat's 03 (a little thin).

I also started going through Thomas Bernhard* a bit—fittingly, the same issue of the NYTBR features Dale Peck on Bernhard; annoyingly, I did not receive my (pre-blizzard) Sunday Times!

*In particular The Loser, which starts off with a few shorties and then, while still on the first page, begins its epic paragraph. Glenn Gould is a character in The Loser, and I thought it was interesting that Gould's performance of "The Well-Tempered Clavier" inspired Friedrich Dürrenmatt's "novella in 24 sentences."

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Blogger Quailty said...

Don't forget Hilton Als's single-sentence profile of PJ Harvey that appeared in... The Believer!

5:09 PM  

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