Wednesday, April 3, 2013

William Maxwell on sentences

From his 1982 Paris Review interview:

That’s what I try to do — write sentences that won’t be like sand castles. I’ve gotten to the point where I seem to recognize a good sentence when I’ve written it on the typewriter. Often it’s surrounded by junk. So I’m extremely careful. If a good sentence occurs in an otherwise boring paragraph, I cut it out, rubber-cement it to a sheet of typewriter paper, and put it in a folder. It’s just like catching a fish in a creek. I pull out a sentence and slip a line through the gills and put it on a chain and am very careful not to mislay it. Sometimes I try that sentence in ten different places until finally it finds the place where it will stay — where the surrounding sentences attach themselves to it and it becomes part of them. In the end what I write is almost entirely made up of those sentences, which is why what I write now is so short. They come one by one, and sometimes in dubious company.
I’ve just begun reading Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow. No dubious company to be found.

comments: 1

Pete said...

So Long is a great book. I'm still amazed at how Maxwell made such a short book (135 pages) feel like an epic.