Monday, August 24, 2015

Two sentences.

I ran across the sentences below in an email from "The New Yorker," announcing the publication, late next month of a new collection of writing from the really very surpassing writer Joseph Roth. You can read the whole piece here. And I think it's worth it. 

I've read a lot of Joseph Roth in my day, and I suppose he's in the top three of Roths out there. He's not Philip--the Roth who stands head and shoulders above all other Roths--read "Portnoy's Complaint" if you doubt that. And Joseph probably falls in behind, just barely, Henry Roth, whose "Call it Sleep," is pretty damn good.

Joseph specialized in feulletons. Little incidental marginalia. Still I regard his "What I Saw," as one of the great books of early pre-Hitlerite Europe.

But back to the sentence at hand:

"On Sundays the world is as bright and empty as a balloon. Girls in white dresses wander about the streets like so many church bells, all smelling of jasmine, sex, and starch."

When my younger daughter was about 15 or 16, I taught her to drink espresso as it should be drunk. Let a drop on your tongue, like ambrosia, and let its flavor spread over your palate.

That's how I feel about Roth's sentence. Each word or phrase is perfect and evocative. Let it sit on your tongue for a while.

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