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How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read Oneby Stanley Fish
Synopses & Reviews
Some appreciate fine art; others appreciate fine wines. Stanley Fish appreciates fine sentences. The New York Times columnist and world-class professor has long been an aficionado of language: "I am always on the lookout for sentences that take your breath away, for sentences that make you say, 'Isn't that something?' or 'What a sentence.'" Like a seasoned sportscaster, Fish marvels at the adeptness of finely crafted sentences and breaks them down into digestible morsels, giving readers an instant play-by-play.
In this entertaining and erudite gem, Fish offers both sentence craft and sentence pleasure, skills invaluable to any writer (or reader). His vibrant analysis takes us on a literary tour of great writers throughout history — from William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Henry James to Martin Luther King Jr., Antonin Scalia, and Elmore Leonard. Indeed, How to Write a Sentence is both a spirited love letter to the written word and a key to understanding how great writing works; it is a book that will stand the test of time.
"A whole book on the lowly sentence? Stanley Fish, America's English Professor, confides that he belongs 'to the tribe of sentence watchers,' and shares his passion and learning through an array of examples from sentence-making masters, among them Milton, James, Dr. King, Sterne, Swift, Salinger, Elmore Leonard, Conrad, and Gertrude Stein. For Fish, language is logic. He stresses how the sentence, regardless of length — whether declarative or embroidered with qualifiers — is a structure of logical relationships. He discusses the all-important opening sentence and closing sentence, especially as the latter can be isolated from its dramatic context to convey full rhetorical effect. The reader is advised to begin with form; with practice, writers can develop three basics of style (subordinating, additive, satiric) that will allow them to make an emotional impact with their words. In the end, the craft of sentence writing is elevated to the very center of our inner lives. Fish plays the opinion card well, though a piling on of example after example, particularly of long sentences drawn from literature or theology, might leave more experienced sentence-makers to cry, 'Enough already!' (Jan. 25)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Coming up with all-or-nothing arguments is simply what Fish does; and, in a sense, one of his most important contributions to the study of literature is that temperament....Whether people like Fish or not, though, they tend to find him fascinating." The New Yorker
"[Fish] fluidly conveys the nitty-gritty details of crafting sentences, but, even more impressive, he communicates and instills in readers a deep appreciation for beautiful sentences that 'do things the language you use every day would not have seemed capable of doing.' Language lovers will flock to this homage to great writing." Booklist
"A guided tour through some of the most beautiful, arresting sentences in the English language." Slate
"Both deeper and more democratic than The Elements of Style." Financial Times
"How to Write a Sentence is a must read for aspiring writers and anyone who wants to deepen their appreciation of literature. If extraordinary sentences are like sports plays, Fish is the Vin Scully of great writing." Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, authors of They Say/I Say
“Like a long periodic sentence, this book rumbles along, gathers steam, shifts gears, and packs a wallop.” Boston Globe
“A sentence is, in John Donne’s words, ‘a little world made cunningly,’ writes Fish. He’ll teach you the art.” Roy Blount Jr.
New York Times columnist Fish presents an entertaining, erudite celebration of language and rhetoric drawing on a wide range of examples from Hobbes to Scalia to Elmore Leonard.
“Like a long periodic sentence, this book rumbles along, gathers steam, shifts gears, and packs a wallop.”
—Roy Blount Jr.
“Language lovers will flock to this homage to great writing.”
Outspoken New York Times columnist Stanley Fish offers an entertaining, erudite analysis of language and rhetoric in this delightful celebration of the written word. Drawing on a wide range of great writers, from Philip Roth to Antonin Scalia to Jane Austen and beyond, Fishs How to Write a Sentence is much more than a writing manual—it is a penetrating exploration into the art and craft of sentences.
About the Author
Stanley Fish is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University. He has previously taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He has received many honors and awards, including being named the Chicagoan of the Year for Culture. He is the author of twelve books and is now a weekly columnist for the New York Times. He resides in Andes, New York; New York City; and Delray Beach, Florida; with his wife, Jane Tompkins.
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