In college, I used to underline sentences that struck me, that made me look up from the page. They were not necessarily the same sentences the professors pointed out, which would turn up for further explication on an exam. I noted them for their clarity, their rhythm, their beauty and their enchantment. For surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time.
That’s Jhumpa Lahiri, with a first piece in the New York Times’ Draft, a series about the art and craft of writing.
Constructing a sentence is the equivalent of taking a Polaroid snapshot: pressing the button, and watching something emerge. To write one is to document and to develop at the same time. Not all sentences end up in novels or stories. But novels and stories consist of nothing but. Sentences are the bricks as well as the mortar, the motor as well as the fuel. They are the cells, the individual stitches. Their nature is at once solitary and social. Sentences establish tone, and set the pace. One in front of the other marks the way.
I have to photograph it. It is my impulse. But rather than capture by underline, my reflexes have changed. Today, falling in love with a sentence, my instinct is not to use markup (analog or digital), but the quick snap-and-post with a device had became the embodiment of affection for me. Sentences do indeed remain unsettled organisms: alive, uncapturable, magic. Many years, many formats, and many sentences later, the sentence remains.