I read Stanley Fish’s “guided tour through some of the most beautiful, arresting sentences in the English language,” titled How to Write a Sentence. He collects barbs:
Interior decorating is a rock-hard science compared to psychology practiced by amateurs. — Justice Antonin Scalia, Lee v. Weisman
Twas brillig and the slithy tovesDid gyre and gimble in the wabeAll mimsy were the borogroves,And the mome raths outgrabe. — Lewis Carroll, “Jabberwocky”
Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse. — Jonathan Swift, A Table of a Tub
The first time I saw Brenda she asked me to hold her glasses. — Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus
He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.— Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
The book saturated this physicist’s interest in literary analysis, but I did like his approach. He studies the pacing of a sentence, how information is revealed, repeated, or undercut. He takes a high-level view of what makes sentences tick, well above the jargon-clogged particulars of grammar. Then he experiments with great sentences by plugging totally different contents into the same form.