Fifty Decent Sentences
The following sentences, taken from established writers, are analyzed
stylistically in Fifty Decent Sentences. You will notice
that the words in bold are the subjects and the words in italics are the verbs
of the sentences.
- Now is the time for all
good men to come to the aid of the party. Commentary
- After this came
shaving, and combing, and brushing; and / when, having
spent the first part of the day in this way, we sat down on the forecastle, in
the afternoon, with clean duck trousers and shirts on, washed, shaved, and
combed, and looking a dozen shades lighter for it, reading, sewing, and talking
at our ease, with a clear sky and warm sun over our heads, a steady breeze over
the larboard quarter, studding sails out alow and aloft, and all the flying
kites abroad--we felt that we had got back into the
pleasantest part of a sailor's life.
- White parasols and elephants mad with pride are the
flowers of a grant of land.
- And Bing Crosby, of course, somewhere out in the blue on the invisible ether waves owned
by the five-and-ten cent store.
- It is a terrible, an inexorable, law that one cannot deny the humanity of another
without diminishing one's own; / in the face of one's victim, one sees oneself.
- It is always the hyperborean thule hacked out with a crystal axe, at the boundaries of the world,
at the boundaries of a world, a mountain of springs and chasms, a gateway to adventure.
- The windows, for instance, to go no further into detail, are placed with a view to impress their
pecuniary excellence upon the chance beholder from the outside, rather than with a view to
effectiveness or comfort of the beneficiaries within; and the detail of interior arrangement is
required to conform itself as best it may to this alien but imperious requirement of pecuniary
- It would be our business to show how through every instant of every day of every
year of his existence alive he is from all sides streamed in upon, bombarded,
pierced, destroyed by that enormous sleeting of all objects forms and
ghosts how great how small no matter, which surround and whom his senses
take: in as great and perfect and exact particularity as we can name them.
- Progress as a predictable result of ordered causes therefore becomes a double delusion--first
because we must seek its cause more in the quirkiness of the wheel, turning tires into sandals and
big brains toward fear of death, than in the plodding predictability of the wedge, propelling
monkeys into men; and secondly, because the supposed sweep of life toward progress only
records our myopic focus on the right tail of a distribution whose mode has never moved from a
- In every deed they saw me choose to divest myself of semblance to them, until on his
deathbed my father with his eyes on the son he had created to perpetuate him--young sloven in his
twenties, who had quit church, quit college, quit jobs, quit his family for communists, quit
communists for a bride, quit his bride for a mistress, and came from writing on a fraudulent
stipend of public relief checks in a tenement such as my parents had put behind them a generation
ago--in fact failed to recognize me.
- The 1927 flood was a torrent ten feet deep the size
of Rhode Island; / it was thirty-six hours coming and
four months going; / it was deep enough to drown a man,
swift enough to upset a
boat, and lasting enough to cancel a crop year.
- The man, the man of super-power, the glorified man of whom he prophesied in his childhood,
as he watched his big, strong men build stone walls, hew down trees drive huge horses--his
mighty men, his heroes, his demi-gods; a powerful presentiment which he had seen and felt in the
glory of the sunrise; which he had heard in the voice of spring; and which, personified through the
haze of most mystical romantic trances, he believed in, he had faith in--that field which is near its
source and secure.
- In "the library," inside the mission-style bookcase with its three diamond-latticed glass doors,
with my father's morris chair and the glass-shaded lamp on its table beside it, were books I could
soon begin on--and / I did , reading them all alike and as they came, straight down their rows, top
shelf to bottom. Commentary
- Blues means a Negro experience, / it is one music the Negro made that could not be
transferred into a more general significance than the one the Negro gave it initially.
- A society which really was like a poem and embodied all the esthetic values of beauty, order,
economy, subordination of detail to the whole effect, would be a nightmare of horror, based on
selective breeding, extermination of the physically or
mentally unfit, absolute obedience to its Director, and a large slave class kept out of sight in cellars.
- He recalled having related to him how Louis Sullivan had once characterized Richardson's
architecture as "great desire on the part of one who is not particular what girl he sleeps with," and
Stanford White's as that of "one who is very particular about the girls without having much
desire," and that he himself had added that Mies van der Rohe's style managed to dispense with the
girls entirely, and that Philip had laughed heartily.
- The fact that the majority in America seem to believe in combating what threatens the core of
our civilization on the field of battle, no matter whose the original fault, no matter whose the
original error, no matter what the risk, no matter what the clarity involved: this is the
- Well, when Tom and me got to the edge of the hilltop we looked away down into the village and
could see three or four lights twinkling, where there was sick folks, maybe, / and the stars over
us was spark-ing ever so fine, / and down by the village was the river, a whole mile broad and
awful still and grand. Commentary
- On some undressed bodies, the burns had made
patterns--of undershirt straps and suspenders and, on the skin of some
women (since white repelled the heat from the bomb and dark clothes
absorbed it and conducted it to the skin), the shapes of flowers they had
had on their kimonos. Commentary
- I have a little shape--it would not crowd your Desk--nor make much Racket as the Mouse,
that dents your Galleries--
- All the cans came back except one, / and if a crowd had been standing around, which there
wasn't, for who in the fresh world of the morning wants to watch the cleanup of the night before,
the truck motors grinding, the ashcans hitting the sidewalk with that tympanic carelessness of the
profession, nobody would have noticed that the truck drove away with one packed garbage can
embedded in all that odorous crap of the glamorous night, or dreamed that in an hour or two it
would be shoveled by tractor deep below the anguished yearnings of the flight of seagulls
wheeling ever the Flushing Meadows landfill.
- War is the health of the state.
- Poetry is news that stays news.
great joker in the philosophic pack was God, was
man, was everything, was cancer,
was chemistry, was an octoroon, was
a golden rose, was a pig's snout, was
Jessie, was a billiard ball, was a maze, was
an empty-headed doll, was ostrich eggs, was
Napoleon, was a cherry tree, was a
rectangle, was mountains, was nature, was
human nature, was Fanny Wright's old party, was
a table, was a chair, was Saint Ursala,
was Chicksauga, was a brain fever, was
happiness, was an acorn, was blocks of
populace, was an albatross on the banks of the Wabash far away,
- If it were not for ambiguity, for the sense of strangeness, that words
in all languages provide, we would have no way of
recognizing the layers of counterpoint in meaning, / and we might be
spending all our time sitting on stone fences, staring into
the sun. Commentary
- Of course, it is possible for any citizen with time to spare, and a canny eye, to
work out what is actually going on, / but for the many there is no time, and the network
news is the only news even though it may not be news at all but only a series of fictions, intended,
like the avowed commercials, to keep docile huddled masses, keep avid for products addled
- What I had seen from the window would prove-- over the next fifty years--to be
inexhaustible each time I looked.
- What is it that he has found that opens all of the doors to him, rolls the rugs out under his feet,
/ and what is it that causes him to answer with a blank look, a sideward glance, with a bowed
head, or with running, walking, or scrambling away from such offers like out from some sprung
- In twenty minutes they give me back my car / and I pass through the doorway into the crisp
world away from the oasis of love and dreams of fair women--a man with a smooth-running
engine, beside the Shalimar. Commentary
- It has something to do with the best of women's club's formally naming itself the "Stitch and
Bitch," something to do with the good-natured insolence of plaza shoeshine boys, and something
to do with the cynical civic attitude toward growth and progress--which Santa Feans view with no
more enthusiasm than a milking goat has for cold hands.
- The fallout quickened appetites in Greece.
- Men indoors in offices, whose bodies actually require little, cann ot think of eating enormously
without thinking of sodden overeating, with condiments to rouse, and heavy meats to lull the
flabby body till the last faint remnants of appetite have departed and the man is monument of sleepy
- In summer they tended, / in fall they harvested, / in winter they repaired, / in spring they
- There is no foreign land; / it is the traveller only that is foreign, and now and again, by a flash
of recollection, lights up the contrasts of the earth.
- Can one nowadays see a soldier without a slight feeling--the slightest possible-of the
- In our family, there was no clear line between
religion and fly fishing. Commentary
the half century since I was born, this hill has moved at
about the rate a fingernail grows, some four feet farther west--about the
distance from my heel to my hip--as has everything else around it, the
Cottonwood, the courthouse, the brass bedsteads.
was Lincoln's anvil on which he hammered out the first rude
models of his political philosophy; had he been a softer anvil, Lincoln's
steel would not have been so evenly and finely
- Calico-coated, small-bodied, with delicate legs and pink
faces in which their mismatched eyes rolled wild and subdued, they
huddled, gaudy motionless and alert, wild as deer, deadly as
rattlesnakes, quiet as doves. Commentary
- I had never met a family like this
before: the nearest I had come was Aunt Rosie,
who played solitaire all night in a downstairs bedroom, lined with
signed photographs of opera stars and pianists, and her husband, Uncle
Mose, who subscribed to the New York Times.
- The Baptists
will continue to send missionaries to Brazil to teach the
heteroscian heathen what to teach their young daughters, and the godly people
to rail at prize-fighting as a public disgrace--while Antonia Teixeira claps
her fatherless babe to her childish breast, bedews it with bitter tears and
wonders if God knows there's such a place as Texas.
- Thus Padre
Xantes dealt with his brave egg, breathing ever more rapidly
in and out until, unable to restrain himself a moment longer, he clamped it
savagely twixt tongue and palate, uttering as he did so a tiny squeak of
pleasure; / the yolk exploded in abandon, mounting
deliriously toward his sinuses, then sliding down past the roots of his tongue
into his throat.
- The wind was the watchful father
always there, always watching, always moving through its forest of noise
watching you as you stared hopelessly into the sky, caught by its great and
overwhelming gladous that makes it all worth living for, to listen and
- Usually, by the time she had fallen asleep all the
classes of people were moiling and roiling
around in her head, / and she would dream they were all
crammed in together in a box car, being ridden off to be put in a gas oven.
- I did the dishes and organized
for the greedy day; dinosaurs in the morning, park in the
afternoon, peanut butter in between, and at the end of it all, to reward us for
a week of beans endured, a noble rib roast with little onions, dumplings, and
pink applesauce. Commentary
comfortable weight in one's hand, the smooth, rapid descent down the string,
ending with a barely audible snap as the yo-yo hung balanced, spinning,
pregnant with force and the slave of one's fingertip . [Original: "It felt
good. The comfortable weight. . . "] Commentary
- Forget grammar and
think about potatoes.
- The wall between rich and poor is
a wall of glass through which all can see.
- There is
nothing to make you like other human beings so much as doing things for
- Somewhere west of
Flemish Gap in the North Atlantic Basin, Paradise, Kansas, acquired
a barn, a herd of cows with shitty tails, a log house, a spread
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