Saturday, July 12, 2008

Best Sentences

Some weeks ago I began a search for some of my best personal sentences. I wondered if any of my language might stand the tough scrutiny of time, since most of what any writer creates has the tendency to become mush. As it turns out, my best sentences, I think, turned up in my fiction, such as:

This, the opening paragraph of my short story, "Baseball Season", which was published in 1993, but I wrote the story in 1991, when I was thirty years old.

The winter was too long in 1968, as I had spring fever, hoping for and desiring the return of baseball in the early days of April. It had been a long winter of sadness and ill content for our family--my aunt had died in late November, a cousin was killed in a race riot in Milwaukee, and my older brother, Forston, was drafted just out of high school and went to fight the war in Vietnam.

It was a tough story to write, imaging life from the vantage point of a young African-American male in the 1960's & 1970's. But I still like the story.

I also like the ending of my short story, "Bag of Tricks", which was published in 2005, but was a story I wrote soon after my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. I'm not sure how to characterize the story (mystery, romance, literary), but writing a story about a husband who is trying to save his wife's life was tough. The story ends with these words, but has some of my best sentences, I think:

He looked up, into the void of night, a brilliant moon tumbling slowly across the stars. Then, with one fluid motion, he tossed the pills high into the darkness, watching the bottles glisten and glint in the beam of a passing headlight, each one falling away, falling away, into another life.

I may still discover some good sentences, but it's tough rereading my own words ten, twenty years after writing them. Most of the time I wonder: What was I thinking?

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