Another Great Sentence

Book: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

This sentence is passionately rich, full, and, oh, so meaningful.  I’ve not run across an explanation of loss quite like this before.

I wanted to bring to your attention, for those of you interested in punctuation, the use of dashes here.  They are set up to highlight a beautifully constructed list, accenting the main sentence, of how grief can change the physical features in all of us.  Brilliant construction!  Brilliant sentence.  (The book is really good too.) 



Or perhaps it is that time doesn’t heal wounds at all, perhaps that is the biggest lie of them all, and instead what happens is that each wound penetrates the body deeper and deeper until one day you find that the sheer geography of your bones—the angle of your head, the jutting of your hips, the sharpness of your shoulders, as well as the luster of your eyes, the texture of your skin, the openness of your smile—has collapsed under the weight of your griefs.



The author always has poetic license.  Had this been a passage that I was editing, I would have separated the complete clauses at the beginning of the passage as such.


  1. Or perhaps it is that time doesn’t heal wounds at all; perhaps that is the biggest lie of them all; and instead what happens is that each wound penetrates the body deeper and deeper until one day you find that the sheer geography of your bones—the angle of your head, the jutting of your hips, the sharpness of your shoulders, as well as the luster of your eyes, the texture of your skin, the openness of your smile—has collapsed under the weight of your griefs.

  2. Or perhaps it is that time doesn’t heal wounds at all; perhaps that is the biggest lie of them all, and, instead, what happens is that each wound penetrates the body deeper and deeper until one day you find that the sheer geography of your bones—the angle of your head, the jutting of your hips, the sharpness of your shoulders, as well as the luster of your eyes, the texture of your skin, the openness of your smile—has collapsed under the weight of your griefs.

Some people might add an extra comma after instead: “; and instead, what”.

Works Cited

Umrigar, Thrity. The Space Between Us. HarperCollins E-books. Kindle Edition, 2009, p. 67.

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Angus Wilson

I chose Wilson’s sentence because it is just fun.  This is another sentence that paints a whole scene, putting the reader right in the middle of the action.

“She looked mad, absolutely round the bend, standing in a filthy bare hall on ragged linoleum under the dismal light of one feeble, fly-brown, naked bulb, casually dispensing thousands of pounds.”  Angus Wilson, No Laughing Matter, 401

The sentence is another from Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences, page 34.  She explains that “linking-verb kernels, too, may be held intact, as in the opening clause of the following [above] right-branching sentence.”

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Right-branching sentences start with the main sentence, in this case: “She looked mad.”  The following information describing said sentence then follows: “absolutely round the bend, standing in a filthy bare hall on ragged linoleum under the dismal light of one feeble, fly-brown, naked bulb, casually dispensing thousands of pounds.”

If you are interested in learning more about linking verbs, the following link is pretty comprehensive. 

Linking verbs:

  • Show a relationship between the subject and the sentence complement, the part of the sentence following the verb
  • Connect or link the subject with more information – words that further identify or describe the subject
  • Identify a relationship or existing condition

This site provides a whole list of linking verbs.  https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/parts-of-speech/verbs/linking-verbs.html

Kernel Sentence: a sentence (such as “John is big” or “John has a book”) exemplifying in a language one of a very small group of the grammatically simplest sentence types or patterns (such as noun phrase + be + adjective phrase or noun phrase + verb + noun phrase) which in transformational grammar are the basic stock from which all sentences in that language are derived and in terms of which they can all ultimately be described (Webster’s Unabridged).

or

Kernel Sentence Patterns: noun-verb, noun-verb-noun, noun-verb-noun-noun, noun linking-verb noun, and noun linking-verb adjective (Dechant).

* * *

Works cited:

Dechant, Emerald. Understanding and Teaching Reading: An Interactive Model. Routledge. 1991.

 “Kernel Sentence.” Merriam-Webster Unabridged. 2019.  https://www.merriam-webster.com/help/citing-the-dictionary

“Linking Verbs.” Your Dictionary. Love to Know, Corp. 2019.

Tufte, Virginia. Artful Sentences. Graphics Press, LLC.  2006

Wilson, Angus. No Laughing Matter.  Faber & Faber.  2012.

Gore Vidal

Favorite Passage

From Artful Sentences by Virginia Tufte – page 28.

This sentence has so much emotion tied into it that it almost feels like I have watched the movie already.  The first part of the sentence has such strong movement, rhythm, pacing, created by the confusion, the rain, the lightning—and then, it stopped. 

The juxtaposition of the semicolon here commands the stop.  It also allows the movement to carry on in a related, yet different thread.  Maybe the reality isn’t reality at all.  Maybe the man is dreaming? 

And, then he is brought out of his misshapen, perceived reality, brought back into the present moment with the confirmation of his suspicions brought forth by a lover’s moan.

The point of this sentence is to show how a short intransitive verb can drive a point home after a long passage with force and conviction.  He fled.

“He stood in the rain, unable to move, not knowing if the lovers were real or simply creations of the lightning and when it stopped, they stopped; unless of course he was dreaming one of those dreams from which he would awaken in that pain which is also sharpest pleasure, having loved in sleep. But the cold rain was real; so was the sudden soft moan from the poolhouse door. He fled.” (Gore Vidal, Washington, D.C.)

Tufte, Virginia. Artful Sentences. Graphics Press. 2007

Vidal, Gore. Washington D.C., Vintage Books. 2000

Baldwin, James

Of all the sentences I have read, these remain my favorite (despite the punctuation problems).

From “Sonny’s Blues”

 “These boys, now, were living as we’d been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities.”

2016 – James Baldwin’s short story Sonny’s Blues represents a time in America where getting a decent job was really difficult for African Americans. 

Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” The Oxford Book of American Short Stories. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. The Ontario Review: New York, 2013 Google Books 482-514 Web. 8 Mar 2016.