The poet Keats, at the age of twenty-four, penned these immortal words,
|‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
|Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’
I thought of them often as readers and I struggled with how to evaluate the many different kinds of sentences entered into the contest to find the most beautiful one.
Of the 158 people who read the sentences, 11 entered the contest, and six voted. One person, Sally Rogers, received two votes (one from Gutsy Writer Sonia Marsh and one from Marilyn Stein Lefeber, both bloggers) for the quote she entered. Congratulations, Sally, you are our grand prize winner! Here’s the sentence:
“An original life is unexplored territory. You don’t get there by taking a taxi — you get there by carrying a canoe.” — Alan Alda
I took this quote to my memoir bookcase this morning, and enjoyed pondering which book to give Sally. I finally selected The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle, a woman who carried her own canoe! Before sending the book to Sally, I will return to some of the places I underlined. Here’s a plucked sentence for you: “Like the White Queen, I find it a good discipline to practice believing as many as seven impossible things before breakfast.”
Picking a book turned out to be so much fun, that I found one for all the people whose sentences attracted a voter. Here, for example, is one for Wayne Ramsey, who offered so many wonderful sentences along with his reveries about them. Karin Larson Krisetya, from Indonesia, picked the Yeats line,
“WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book, And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep”
I searched for a book about an abiding romance, one of the least frequently told stories in literature! It seems young love seldom lasts into old age or at least is seldom celebrated by the poets. Yeats himself only yearned for this fate. He did not experience it. Julia Childs, however, apparently did. In My Life in France, her memoir of how she fell in love with her husband Paul, the country of France, and French cooking, Childs illustrates the value of a strong appetite–for food, for a place, and for the love of one’s life. Notice the two hearts on the cover. Here’s the final beautiful sentence, which has Julia’s huge personality written all over it: “And thinking back on it [an unforgetable meal in 1948] now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite–toujours bon appetit!”
Speaking of the pleasures of the table. . .my dear neighbor Chin Pheng Oh offered her own thought: “Stand on the table once in awhile and open your eyes to a different view and perspective. Nothing is what it seems at first glance.” Betty Wiens, a blogger from Paraguay, voted for this sentence. She knows it is true.
Chin has lived in two cultures, so she has stood on the table often. I found this book just for her: American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Marie Arana. I have not read this book myself, but since Chin is my neighbor, I can always borrow it.
Kevin Kilmer, AKA Amish Guitar, gave us both a luscious sentence from Haven Kimmel and a lovely rant about not being able to vote in a contest without criteria. For this sentence and for the rant he is awarded a prize also: “The distance between Mooreland in 1965 and a city like San Francisco in 1965 is roughly equivalent to the distance starlight must travel before we look up casually from a cornfield and see it.” From A Girl Named Zippy, a delightful memoir I have not yet reviewed here.
I will be sending Kevin The Solace of Leaving Early, another book I have not read. Let’s hope Kevin finds many beautiful sentences within its pages. Connie L. nominated this sentence because of its clarity, striking comparison, and the suggestion of mystery.
Finally, we have Bruce Hostetler, who picked a line from Dr. Suess,
“But tonight they’ve forgotten their feet are so sore
and that’s what the wonderful night time is for.”
Ila Stoltzfus, mother of Nik and therefore my daughter Kate’s future mother-in-law, selected this sentence. Could it be that planning for a wedding brings back a lot of childhood memories? For me, shopping for a wedding dress for a daughter or future daughter-in-law brings back memories of watching a child wobble away on a bike for the first time. Beauty and evanescence walk hand in hand into the night.
I thought of going down to the basement and pulling out a Dr. Suess book, but I am saving them in case I become a grandma some day. Instead, I found the incredible story called House of Happy Endings by Leslie Garis. Do you know how Uncle Wiggly, The Bobbsey Twins, and Tom Swift stories were written? By ghost writers cranking out formula fiction that profited a franchise. Leslie Garis tells the tragic story of how her grandfather’s role in this literary production of happy endings for a mass audience led to sad endings for many others, especially her father.
I will need addresses from Sally, Kevin, and Bruce. You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy the books. Thanks for playing the game. I hope we all think more deeply about the beautiful sentences all around us.
In the words of Julia Childs–tourjours bon appetit!