All the way to Reno


Brilliant interview with Rachel Kushner in Guernica. Discussed: register, range, realism, Roberto Bolaño, violent histories, Proust, Robert Altman, sentences.

There is no single formula. An invisible integument that gives the sentence wholeness and musicality, sometimes. But other times, the formula is almost purely one of context. And yet other times, of sheer precision of meaning. This is a good sentence: “Just as he was settling into the warm mud of alcoholic gloom, Shrike caught his arm.” “Warm mud of alcoholic gloom” is exact and right and accurate.

But then you have sentences that only become truly good in context, like these two, the second sentence making the first sing: “After a long night and morning, towards noon, Miss Lonelyhearts welcomed the arrival of fever. It promised heat and mentally unmotivated violence.”

And then there is a sentence that is good on its own, but great in connection with the next one: “He felt as though his heart were a bomb, a complicated bomb that would result in a simple explosion, wrecking the world without rocking it. He decided to go to Delehanty’s for a drink.”

Or there is a writer like Clarice Lispector, where each sentence is profound philosophy and can exist totally on its own, like this one: “Yet even amputated, the hand doesn’t scare me.”

And then there is this sentence, which goes to the very heights. But you have to read all of As I Lay Dying to get to it and understand and feel its greatness: “‘Meet Mrs. Bundren,’ he says.”

What does any of this tell us about the sentence? Very little.