The American Scholar has completed its search for literature’s 10 best sentences, and presented its unranked list (of 11, just because).
The authors elevated to the pantheon of sentence-makers are F Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, John Hersey, Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, Joan Didion, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Tim O’Brien, Vladimir Nabokov and Truman Capote. Read the chosen sentences themselves here; Roy Peter Clark of Poynter teases out why they’re the best sentences here.
Meantime, these are the three shortest:
“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.
“Anger was washed away in the river along with any obligation.”
- Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms.
“There is nothing more atrociously cruel than an adored child.”
- Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
The opening sentence of a recent obituary in the New York Times is pretty great, too.
“Walter R Walsh, a world-class marksman who shot clothespins off laundry lines as a boy and went on to become an FBI legend in shootouts with gangsters in the 1930s, an Olympic competitor and a trainer of generations of Marine Corps sharpshooters, died on Tuesday at his home in Arlington, Virginia.”
And the second sentence: “He was 106.”
See what’s inside the latest edition of the Listener.