[writing] Your favorite sentences

the_child and I have talked frequently about “perfect sentences.” A sentence is of course perfect only in context, but within context there can be some real humdingers. Probably my favorite (and it’s actually a phrase, part of a longer sentence) is from Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, “Man is where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” She and I spent a good forty-five minutes one day analyzing that one.

I am also quite fond of Tom Stoppard’s line from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, “We cross our bridges when we come to them, and burn them behind us, with nothing left to show for our progress except the memory of the smell of smoke and the presumption that our eyes once watered.”

Gene Wolfe has an excellent one from Book of the New Sun, “In the end, our one unforgiveable sin is that we can only be who we are.”

All quotes from memory, and therefore likely wobbly.

This afternoon the_child asked me to ask you what your favorite sentences were — who wrote them (including yourself, that’s allowed), where they appeared, and if you like, what they mean, either to the world or to you personally.

5 thoughts on “[writing] Your favorite sentences

  1. Sarah says:

    How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.

    William Faulkner – As I Lay Dying – just one of my favorites.

  2. Jaws says:

    The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man, to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

    — George Orwell, Animal Farm: A Fairy Story (the closing line)

    which is followed by:

    It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

    — George Orwell, 1984: A Novel (the opening line)

  3. tetar says:


    First sentence in Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

    He goes on for two paragraphs of brilliant evocation but that one word sums it all up: The world, or what we conjure it from.


  4. Marko says:

    “Call me Ishmael.”

    Best first sentence in a novel evar. Simplicity, mood and purpose, all tied up in just three words.

  5. Alan Kellogg says:

    A king of elves
    There was of old
    Saranwrap by name
    Who slew the narcs
    At Mellowmarsh
    And Soreheads host did tame.

    Henry Beard and Douglas C. Kenny Bored of the Rings

    “I just love hairy toes.”

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