The Big Read Blog (Archive)

A Little Love for Language

Washington, DC


"No Substitute" by accent on eclectic via flickr

Every once in a while, you?ll read a sentence in a book that is so beautifully written, or so forceful in the truth it speaks, that you can?t help but stop and marvel at the power of language. Those are the lines that you underline or pages you dog ear, and that stick in your mind long after a book has been finished and shelved. While there are many lines like this in our Big Read books, here are some of my particular favorites.

?Evening was her special time of day. She gave the word three syllables, and indeed I think she liked it so well for its tendency to smooth, to soften. She seemed to dislike the disequilibrium of counterpoising a roomful of light against a worldful of darkness. Sylvie in a house was more or less like a mermaid in a ship?s cabin.? ---Marilynne Robinson in Housekeeping

"The few poems I had finished seemed, in the hard circle of light thrown by the gooseneck lamp, even more disappointing. The beauty of a fragment is that it still supports the hope of brilliant completeness." ---Tobias Wolff in Old School

?When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. Then after that some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks make them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and dumb. Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine.? ---Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God

"...you find yourself studying the fine colors on the river, you feel wonder and awe at the setting of the sun, and you are filled with a hard, aching love for how the world could be and always should be, but now is not." ---Tim O'Brien in The Things They Carried

"I did not want to find her aged and broken; I really dreaded it. In the course of twenty crowded years one parts with many illusions. I did not wish to lose the early ones. Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again." ---Willa Cather in My Ántonia

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