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The Greatest Paragraph Ever Written

 
 
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 03:00 pm
Here's my all time favorite, from "A Separate Peace", by John Knowles. The character "Leper" is revealing what he saw in the tree that Phinneas and Gene were in at the time of the accident.

..."I could see both of them clearly enough because the sun was blazing all around them," a certain singsong sincerity was developing in his voice, as though he were trying to hold the interest of young children, "and the rays of the sun were shooting past them, millions of rays shooting past them like--like golden machine-gun fire." He paused to let us consider the profoundly revealing exactness of this phrase. "That's what it was like, if you want to know. The two of them looked as black as--as black as death standing up there with this fire burning all around them."

This paragraph is just absolutely beautiful, and that phrase, "profoundly revealing exactness" is so perfect.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 4,309 • Replies: 19
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 05:49 pm
machine-fun?
LOL
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kickycan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 06:04 pm
Oh crap. I post the greatest paragraph ever written, and I put a typo in it.

Thanks for pointing that out, Edgar.
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Mr Stillwater
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 07:00 pm
The only damn paragraph I care for begins with:

Quote:
The Tax Office has assessed your claim and details of your refund are found below.
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 08:21 pm
Kickycan, A Separate Peace is one of my all-time favorites. As far as favorite paragraphs: There are some great ones in Grapes of Wrath, a spectacular paragraph in The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx, where she describes a particular harbor; there are some exceptional passages in Faith and the Good Thing, by Charles Johnson, and some phenomenal sentences strung together by Oscar Wilde.

I'll see if I can dig a few of them up.

Mr. Stillwater, you get a refund? Must be nice.
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 09:07 pm
Ok, here's the paragraph from "The Shipping News." Certainly not the greatest ever written, but one of my favorites...

These waters, thought Quoyle, haunted by lost ships, fishermen, explorers gurgled down into sea holes as black as a dog's throat. Bawling into salt broth. Vikings down the cracking winds, steering through fog by the polarized light of sun-stones. The Inuit in skin boats, breathing, breathing, rhythmic suck of frigid air, iced paddles dipping, spray freezing, sleek back rising, jostle, the boat torn, spiraling down. Millenial bergs from the glaciers, morbid, silent except for waves breaking on their flanks, the deceiving sound of shoreline where there was no shore. Foghorns, smothered gun reports along the coast. Ice welding land to sea. Frost smoke. Clouds mottled by reflections of water holes in the plains of ice. The glare of ice erasing dimension, distance, subjecting senses to mirage and illusion. A rare place.


Not bad, eh?
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 09:12 pm
Black as a dog's throat? Why not a rhinocerous?
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 09:15 pm
What has a dog got to do with it, anyway?
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 09:28 pm
I love Annie Proulx. That one out of context is kinda hmm, but I loved the book, and stopped several times to just kind of sigh happily at how RIGHT a given paragraph was.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 09:47 pm
One of my favorite writers was Erskine Cadwell. But, he could not construct a paragraph for beans. Reading from his works, I sometimes laugh with embarrassment for him.
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Mr Stillwater
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 10:59 pm
Gus - you can read? That's nice.
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kickycan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 May, 2004 12:57 am
Wow, I guess I have to check out this Annie Proulx chick. Gus, thanks for bringing Oscar Wilde into the conversation. Might be next on my reading list.
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 May, 2004 05:47 am
Quote:
Gus - you can read? That's nice.


Just barely, but it was awfully nice of you to notice, Mr. Stillwater.
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 May, 2004 05:54 am
Quote:
...but I loved the book, and stopped several times to just kind of sigh happily at how RIGHT a given paragraph was.


You know who else has that ability, Soz.

T. Coraghessan Boyle.

Actually, much more so than Proulx.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 May, 2004 06:44 am
Ahh, The Road to Wellville. Has anyone read Proulx's Accordian Crimes? That was a good read.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 May, 2004 06:54 am
I've always been a fan of poetic description. Here's one from Cities of the Interior, by Anais Nin.

"Her red hair was as unruly as her whole self; no comb could dress it. No dress would cling and mould her, but every inch of it would stand out like ruffled feathers. Tumult in orange, red and yellow and green quarelling with each other. The rose devoured the orange, the green and blue overwhelmed the purple. The sport jacket was irritated to be in company with the silk dress, the tailored coat at war with the embroidery, the everyday shoes at variance with the turquoise bracelet. And if at times she chose a majestic hat, it sailed precariously like a sailboat on a choppy sea."
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Thalion
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jun, 2004 11:56 am
There are tons of candidates in Tolkien's work. Also, I thought the first couple paragraphs of The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin were particularly well written, although I enjoy all of her work.
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Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Jun, 2004 08:54 am
Here's a pretty good one from Roger Zelazny's sword and sorcery novel, "The Guns of Avalon." It helps to know the backstory, but, even so, I think you can see how beautifully he writes. The protagonist is describing a trip on horseback which he and his companion, Ganelon, are taking to a place named Avalon:

"Riding, riding, through the wild, weird ways that led to Avalon, we went, Ganelon and I, down alleys of dream and of nightmare, beneath the brass bark of the sun and the hot, white isles of night, till these were gold and diamond chips and the moon swam like a swan. Day belled forth the green of spring, we crossed a mighty river and the mountains before us were frosted by night. I unleashed an arrow of my desire into the midnight and it took fire overhead, burned its way like a meteor into the north. The only dragon we encountered was lame and limped away quickly to hide, singeing daisies as it panted and wheezed. Migrations of bright birds arrowed our destination, and crystalline voices from lakes echoed our words as we passed. I sang as we rode, and after a time, Ganelon joined me. We had been traveling for over a week, and the land and the sky and the breezes told me we were near to Avalon now."
Unicorn
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Jan, 2013 07:22 am
@Brandon9000,
What sort of friends do you hang out with * Sinkers, Floaters or
Rockets?

I was cudgeling my brain that if someone raised a question to me that what sort of friends do you mostly prefer to hang out with, so I would not be nervous or embarrassed at all; hence, I would be willing to answer straight forwardly that I usually dwell in the company of such friends, on which the word of friends would surely lose its meaning; instead, marvelously shooting rockets would sound more appropriate to describe them.

They are such rockets that are the fastest in everything and speedily race forward leaving slow turtles behind them. They do and perform such amazingly eye captivating gestures which mostly force the people’s eyes to pop out like foamy bubbles and make them extremely stunned, just like the launching of a rocket does. They are indeed the most prominent among all the sheepishly sluggish snails and are popular for being extraordinarily wise owlets.

I feel pity for the people who are involved in the dull group of sinkers and (somewhat) floaters, as some people are wrapped up in their own silly little lives of wrongly chosen friendship, fail to realize the fact that the jittery quitters and sinkers are never able to breed the path of success and are spending their lives as a wasted, crumpled ball paper. At least, I would say that my friends are included in one of those people who are recognized as bright and confident children [rockets] in my world and also should be at the present moment.

Nowadays, I firmly believe that people should be capable of mooching around with achieving rockets instead of gormless losers as the winners would be the only ones proved outstanding in the end, who would shine sparks of silver light reflections on people’s way and their mind.
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DavJohanis
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Jan, 2013 07:32 am
@gustavratzenhofer,
'The shipping news' post you made was inspiring.

Quote:
Ice welding land to sea. Frost smoke. Clouds mottled by reflections of water holes in the plains of ice.
This part is somewhat the mystery to me however, perhaps you have seen more in this world about that... Wonderful, thank you.
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