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Beautiful Writing

March 20, 2009

In our hustle-and-bustle world, it’s hard to stop and enjoy the not-so-simple pleasures. Heck, it’s hard enough to stop and enjoy the simple and mindless ones. So it’s not surprising to me that as a culture and as individuals we rarely pause to enjoy the craft and artistry of a well-turned phrase, sentence, or passage.

Well, no more, I say! Today you have permission to pause for just a few seconds to read, ponder, and drink deeply of the following well-wrought prose snippets.

My most persistent impression as a farm boy was of the earth. There was a closeness, almost an immersion, in the sand, loam, and red clay that seemed natural, and constant. The soil caressed my bare feet, and the dust was always boiling up from the dirt road that passed fifty feet from our front door, so that inside our clapboard house the red clay particles, ranging in size from face powder to grits, were ever present, particularly in the summertime, when the wooden doors were kept open and the screens just stopped the trash and some of the less adventurous flies.

That was from Jimmy Carter’s 2001 memoir, An Hour Before Daylight, and while some of the more grammatically traditional among us might disapprove of Carter’s reliance on the humble comma, I find that choice keeps the words moving at a slow, even, unending pace. I feel immersed in his images, and even though I loathe the South in summertime, I’m soothed by the music in the passage.

This next passage shows that powerful writing pops up in even the least likely of places, and in response to the seemingly least likely of events. Writing at the Boing Boing Gadgets blog Joel Johnson puts together a very brief post on leaked concept art detailing the NERF weapons to be created for an upcoming Nintendo Wii game:


The post, titled “These NERF cannons can not be” concludes:

They’ll never be real, but we can still dream about a NERF bazooka that shoots a single, giant round into the faces of small children.

One of the wonderful things about language is that, even in our media- and message-saturated world, there still exists the possibility of being surprised by words. Kudos, Joel!

Categories: Composition
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