Savoring a Sentence

The Detail of it All

by cheri block

Consider this sentence only.

Let me give you some context before you do.

Before I give you the context, how much time do you have?

If you are stopping by for six seconds in hopes of being mildly entertained, six seconds is not enough time.

Do you remember looking or listening or tasting or smelling or touching something today? I mean the details of it all?

Marveling at the experience of perhaps eating a tuna sandwich or smelling the smoke from chicken teriyaki barbecuing next door? Or how about the feel of the hoodie going up against your cold ears and shielding them from a brisk wind?

O.K.  You’re in a hurry. I see. I’ll give you the sentence.

No, wait. Let me make a few more comments for you to digest. Sorry.

Savoring the humor, the irony, and the wit behind this sentence has given me great pleasure today.

Because of this pleasure, I have made no progress on my essay due next Wednesday for my graduate class.

All right. Here’s Jane Austen’s killer sentence.

No, you need the context. I forgot.

Charlotte Palmer is married to a stoic, Mr. Palmer. He treats her poorly, but then again, she is a silly woman. About Mr. Palmer Charlotte says to Elinor,

Mr. Palmer does not hear me [laughing] …he never does sometimes. It is so ridiculous.

“He never does sometimes.”

Do you believe this marvelous sentence?

What are we to make of this statement?

He never [not ever;] does sometimes [on some occasions; at times; now

and then.]

This sentence, like so many others in Sense and Sensibility, may have been passed over by the hurried reader.

The details of life, like the short sentence above, are to be savored, mulled over, enjoyed like a deep and rich glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.


About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in Life, On fiction and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Savoring a Sentence

  1. Thanks! This was interesting and fun and a reminder of the pleasures of reading (and equally important) reading to enjoy what the author is doing, not just reading to finish the story.

    Your example is a wonderful sentence to unwrap and this one shows Austen’s craftsmanship. The sentence is perfectly consistent with (and evocative of) Charlotte’s personality, psyche and the complexity of her relationship with Mr. Palmer. Is ambivalence the right word?

    Is Charlotte just being goofy? Or is there something about her that Palmer particularly likes or dislikes (he never notices her laughing under certain circumstance). Or more likely is it a reference to Palmer’s preoccupation?

    BTW, I loved your intro about taking time. Too much of our time is spent on six second sound bites or entertainment.

    • Cheri says:

      Yes! A+! Mr. Palmer seems to be ambivalent and Charlotte seems prepared to accept his shoddy treatment.

      Charlotte is a gusher, so much so, that like many males, he has taken a big step back. The more she gushes, the further back he steps.

      I believe Carl Jung would have something to say about this relationship.

      I wrote this exercise for myself. As Richard reminded me several months ago, I must take time for myself.

      Thank you, Thomas.

  2. Richard says:

    Yes. How can a sentence carry so much yet defy analysis?

  3. Jeanie says:

    Your fun with sentences brought a huge smile to my face.
    You drew me in from beginning to end.
    This is a wonderful exercise to make one pay attention to detail and content.
    I so enjoy these insights on wordplay. You make learning the craft fun. How I wish I had been taught by someone like you.

    • Cheri says:

      Gosh Jeannie. You are way too kind.

      Your selection of the word craft to describe writing is perfect!

      Ahhhh….if only my students savored my advice!

      Thank you.

  4. An old colleague of mine, well she was young then as I was, used to say: “This having been said and nothing having been done, as of now and until further notice, everything will stand as before”.
    Well it somehow sounds better in French: “Ceci étant dit et rien n’étant fait, à compter de maintenant et jusqu’à dorénavant, ce sera comme avant”.
    My rgards to Judge Blah and to the yellow dog.

    • Cheri says:

      May I add one to the circuitous one you shared with me?

      Thoreau said, ” Be yourself! Not your idea of what someone else’s idea is…”

      Your French line (sounds so beautiful) reminds me that I need to learn some French very quickly as I will be in France in one month. Oh boy.

      The yellow dog says Woof
      Judge Blah is reading his paper and ranting about all the bad news and creeps in the world. He says Hi

  5. Phil says:

    I would have written: “It seems that Mr Palmer does not hear me, although he actually does sometimes”.

    But then, I’m not Jane Austin.

    However, if it is desired that Jane Austin be read by more of today’s young, her words might best be transcribed into modern English, so that “It seems that Mr Palmer does not hear me, although he actually does sometimes”, would be appropriate.

    Should you think the idea of translating Jane Austin into modern English to be outrageous, then you doubtless think that translating the King James version of the Bible into modern English was outrageous.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Phil,

      Nice translation! Since I am behind on my paper [yawn] and struggling with my thesis, your clear restatement and a restatement of the entire 269 pages would help…

      I am laughing at your last paragraph, trying to picture the Talmud being translated into modern English…

  6. Cyberquill says:

    I stopped at Consider this sentence only and considered it. Upon finally moving on, I learned that I was to consider a different sentence. You did this on purpose.

    Then I couldn’t help but consider this sentence:

    Marveling at the experience of perhaps eating a tuna sandwich or smelling the smoke from chicken teriyaki barbecuing next door?

    Speaking of consideration, how about considering your vegetarian readers and including at least one plant-based item in your list?

    Sorry, but I never got to the sentence I was supposed to consider.

    • Cheri says:

      You are absolutely correct. I should have included a vegetarian dish and also one for the Vegans. I saw a bumper sticker on my way home from the Central Coast yesterday which read I’m a Vegan!! Save the World!! Such a big leap, but if giving up meat and eggs would do it, I’d be willing to try.

      • Cyberquill says:

        Saving the world is a tall order that requires approaches on multiple fronts. Since no change in one single area is ever going to do the trick, stating that you would try something if it would save the world amounts to saying that you have absolutely no intention of ever trying it.

        Ever thought of running for office? You’re good at saying one thing while making it sound like you’re saying the opposite, yet what you’re actually saying is 100% truthful.

  7. andreaskluth says:

    That superb sentence might fall into the same category as the famous “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

    It’s the apparent and ironic illogicality that points to the actual meaning.

  8. Cheri says:

    Is that a real term?

    Ironic illogicality? I don’t see it in my book of literary terms…

  9. Cheri says:

    Thanks for providing a break from my essay writing [slog, slog, slog].

    I have run for office!

  10. andreaskluth says:

    Does it have to be a real term to be good term? A real perm to be a good perm? A real sperm to be a good sperm? A real berm to be a good berm?

    Sorry. Actually I just meant the first question, but suddenly the erm became so appealing. This is what happens to word lovers. Well, I may be projecting….

  11. Cheri says:

    I actually used this term in my essay. Should I include your name on the Works Cited Page?
    Or should I scrap the term… I actually liked the way it rolled around in the mouth.

    A real sperm to be a good sperm. Sperm are sperm. They do or don’t do what they do. Funny how they work.

    Berms too.


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