Shared Sentences

Words I Wish I’d Written

January 29, 2016

When daylight began to come, by premonition, the boy found that he was standing among a crowd of people like himself. They were seated on the mud, which now began to be disturbed by the angry, thin, returning sea, or else were already riding on the water, wakened by it, outside the annoyance of the surf. The seated ones were large teapots, their spouts tucked under their wings.T.H. White, The Once and Future King

October 26, 2015

[On rhythm:] A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do with words), and then as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it.Virginia Woolf, writing to Vita Sackville-West

October 21, 2015

Compared to her usual dawn aftertaste of despair, this sensation seems positively optimistic, untethered as an escaped balloon—a feeling almost like the first days of falling in love.Kate Moses, Wintering

October 8, 2015

It is more difficult to fix on the map the routes of the swallows, who cut the air over the roofs, dropping long invisible parabolas with their still wings, darting to gulp a mosquito, spiraling upward, grazing a pinnacle, dominating from every point of their airy paths all the points of the city.Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

October 6, 2015

Perhaps they were; or perhaps there would have been shoals of them in the far horizon; but lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every dimly discovered, uprising fin of some undiscernible form; seems to him the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting through it.Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, chapter 35

September 28, 2015

I hope they understand, my sons, both now and in the future just materializing in the dark, that all these hours their mother has been walking so swiftly away from them I have not been gone, that my spirit, hours ago, slipped back into the house and crept into the room where their early-rising father had already fallen asleep, usually before 8 P.M., and that I touched this gentle man whom I love so desperately and somehow fear so much, touched him on the pulse in his temple and felt his dreams, which are too distant for the likes of me, and I climbed the creaking old stairs and at the top split in two and, heading right and left into separate rooms, slid through the crack under the doors and curled myself on the pillows to breathe into me the breath my boys breathed out.Lauren Groff, “Ghosts and Empties”

September 27, 2015
At the Grotto we have a book club, which means one Friday afternoon each month we sit around a table laden with wine and nibbles and argue about—I mean discuss—our chosen book. The September book was Helen Macdonald’s delightfully eccentric H Is for Hawk, which I loved for its density, vocabulary, fabulous intertwining of a personal tale of lamentation and survival with a primer on goshawks and falconry (tied together with a rather scathing recounting of T.H. White’s own goshawk story, not to mention his personal demons). What better way to launch this Shared Sentences page than with one of Macdonald’s glorious sentences?

Here, she is speaking of loss:

And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.Helen Macdonald, H Is for Hawk, p. 171