Friday, December 2, 2011

Inspiration from my hall of literary greats

Throughout my writing course, I'm learning to see sentences anew.  I admire them short.  I delight in them long and graceful, like a guided float down a gentle river, a succession of camera shots laid side by side in colorful subtlety, and oh, how the prose sings and rises and dips and dives!  So, I read my favorite authors differently, and it's as if I'm discovering their brilliance all over again.  I thought I'd share sentences from some of these writers whose styles and boldness and artfulness I most admire.  For, in some ways, I feel my writing is a genetic compilation of them all.  

Ann Voskamp, from One thousand gifts

"All new life labors out of the very bowels of darkness."

"I want to see God, who pulls on the coat of my skin and doesn't leave me alone in this withering body of mortality; I want to see God, who gives gifts in hospitals and gravesides and homeless shelters and refugee camps and in rain falling on sunflowers and stars falling over hayfields and silver scales glinting upriver and sewage flowing downriver."

Anne Lamott, from Bird by bird

"Write straight into the emotional center of things.  Write toward vulnerability.  Don't worry about appearing sentimental.  Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent.  Risk being unliked.  Tell the truth as you understand it.  If you're a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this.  And it is a revolutionary act - truth is always subversive."

Tony Cohan, from Mexican days

"It had been a long day's journey.  An Aeromexico red-eye from L.A. had landed me in Mexico City just past dawn.  For the length of the rattling morning ride across the clotted, smog-stung capital, I'd listened to a taxi driver rail against that cabron Presidente Fox, ex-governor of my state of Guanajuato.  Then the hot, turning bus trip eastward through glaring sun and pale empty mountains, past gypsum digs and cactus farms, ever deeper into eastern Mexico, while Schwarzenegger blew away the world on the video monitors at max volume and the wide blue Mexican afternoon condensed into inscrutable fog."

Donald Miller, from Blue like jazz

"I am something of a recluse by nature.  I am that cordless screwdriver that has to charge for twenty hours to earn ten minutes use."

Alexander McCall Smith, from The full cupboard of life

"A few hours later, as the sun climbed up the sky and made shadows short and even the birds were lethargic, when the screeching of the cicadas from the bush behind Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors reached a high insistent pitch, the butcher drew up in his handsome old Rover."

Philip Gourevitch, from We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda

"The dead at Nyarubuye were, I'm afraid, beautiful.  There was no getting around it.  The skeleton is a beautiful thing.  The randomness of the fallen forms, the strange tranquility of their rude exposure, the skull here, the arm bent in some uninterpretable gesture there - these things were beautiful, and their beauty only added to the affront of the place."

The apostle Paul, from his letter to the Philippians

"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him..."

James Bryan Smith, from Room of marvels

"You must let him love you as you are, not as you intend to be.  Let him love you as you are, without a single plea for reform.  It is all about grace, Tim.  All of life is grace.  We deserve nothing; we are given everything. Until now you have only experienced the drippings of grace.  You have longed for the real thing, like the longing for the scent of a flower you have never been able to find, or the echo of a tune you have not yet heard, or news from a country you have never visited.  Well, now you have found it.  Grace is the very thing you have been searching for, and it is all around you."

David Lida, from First stop in the new world: Mexico City, the capital of the 21st century

" Even if you're the only one in the car, in traffic you're never alone.  A galaxy of characters makes its place of business at every stoplight.  Four guys in ratty T-shirts and dusty baseball caps, their expressions blurred by the glue they've sniffed, carry transparent bottles of murky liquid in one hand and filthy rags in the other.  No matter how elaborately you beseech them not to touch your windshield - shaking your head no, waving your arms back and forth, even shouting at the top of your lungs - most of them become momentarily deaf and blind, and cannot be deterred from 'washing' your windows, defying you not to give them a couple of pesos for their trouble when their done.  Or one peso.  Or half a peso.  Or nothing, and it's on to the next car."

Jesus, from the book of John in the Bible

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

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