Another Sentence from Lowry

It was Malcolm Lowry, with his impossible, perfect sentence, that started me on this strange business of collecting long and masterful sentences in the first place, and now here is another from Lowry, and entirely against all my expectations, since I had been told that he wrote only the one novel, Under the Volcano, and so never suspected that I would read anything more of him until I discovered a collection of his stories, Hear Us O Lord From Thy Dwelling Place, in a used bookstore the other day.  I have not read very far in my new treasure, and I have already run across several examples of sentences that I could add to my collection, but I will only share one.  Let it be read in the spirit that I am sharing it, both in honour of Lowry’s role in creating this strange obsession of mine, and also in celebration of discovering more of his beautiful writing:

“Ah, its absolute loneliness amid those wastes, those wildernesses, of rough rainy seas bereft even of sea birds, between contrary winds, or in the great dead windless swell that comes following a gale; and then with the wind springing up and blowing the spray across the sea like rain, like a vision of creation, blowing the little boat as it climbed the highlands into the skies, from which sizzled cobalt lightnings, and then sank down into the abyss, but already was climbing again, while the whole sea crested with foam like lambs’ wool went furling off to leeward, the whole vast moon-driven expanse like the pastures and valleys and snow-capped ranges of a Sierra Madre in delirium, in ceaseless motion, rising and falling, and the little boat rising, and falling into a paralyzing sea of white drifting fire and smoking spume by which it seemed overwhelmed: and all this time a sound, like a high sound of singing, yet as sustained in harmony as telegraph wires, or like the unbelievably high perpetual sound of the wind where there is nobody to listen, which perhaps does not exist, or the ghost of the wind in the rigging of ships long lost, and perhaps it was the sound of the wind in its toy rigging, as again the boat slanted onward: but even then what further unfathomed deeps had it oversailed, until what birds of ill omen turned heavenly for it at last, what iron birds with saber wings skimming forever through the murk above the gray immeasurable swells, imparted mysteriously their own homing knowledge to it, the lonely buoyant little craft, nudging it with their beaks under golden sunsets in a blue sky, as it sailed close in to mountainous coasts of clouds with stars over them, or burning coasts at sunset once more, as it rounded not only the terrible spume-drenched rocks, like incinerators in sawmills, but other capes unknown, those twelve years, of giant pinnacles, images of barrenness and desolation, upon which the heart is thrown and impaled eternally.”

1 comment
  1. John Jantunen said:


    Reading this latest addition, it ocurrs to me that Nicholas Ruddick got his start as a published author by writing single sentence short stories as a challenge between him and his daughter. He ended up submitting them to several poetry competetions and managed to win a few thus beginning his career. Ever thought about writing your own paragraph-sized sentences (for competition of elsewise)?


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