Daily Archives: January 2, 2008

The Sentagraph

Edward Champion’s “The Long and Short of Paragraphs” in today’s Guardian reminded me of one of my favorite one sentence paragraphs.

Lyra is happily relating a tale for the gyptian children…

“… It took him five whole minutes to die, and he was in torment the whole time.”

“Did you see it happen?”

“No, ’cause girls en’t allowed at High Table. But I seen his body afterwards when they laid him out. His skin was all withered like an old apple, and his eyes were starting from his head. In fact, they had to push ’em back in the sockets…”

And so on.

Meanwhile, around the edges of the fen country….

(Page 131 in Philip Pullman’s Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition of The Golden Compass).

I just love that “And so on.” I can just imagine the omniscient narrator rolling his eyes, abruptly turning, and striding off to the fen country. It is such an amazing construction of text. First there is the long story from Lyra interrupted by staccato questions from the gyptian kids. This is broken up with the one-sentence-paragraph sigh of the narrator. And then we are off with a long paragraph of story exposition about the fen country.


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