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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Sentence Collector

"Popular culture is where we go to talk to and agree with one another, to simplify ourselves, to find our herd ... books are where we go alone to complicate ourselves." 

Stamps, antique cars, coins, and ... sentences. I've been collecting the latter for most of my reading life. It's rare for me to finish a book without coming across a single sentence unworthy of my collection. And some books, like the late John Leonard's "Reading For My Life" (2012) shimmer with examples like the one above. When uncovering these gems, years sometimes pass before I find a way to share them. But the joy in doing so is the main reason for collecting them in the first place.

In my experience, writers who are omnivorous readers are more apt to create sentences worth collecting. Polymaths like Leonard or Christopher Hitchens or Joyce Carol Oates, having spent a lifetime immersed in literature and ideas, seem to embody the majesty of their forebears. When asked his advice about how to write, award-winning author Ernest Gaines ("A Lesson Before Dying") replied - "Read, read, and then read some more."

I derive pleasure each time I peruse my ever-expanding sentence collection; there's a story behind most of them. I suspect stamp collectors might feel something similar. What do you collect? How do you share the stories behind your collection? With whom are you most likely to share your collection and the stories?

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