One Sentence?

The yellow shrubs are gorse. This is in the Southeast Highlands of Ireland.

The picture is from Ireland because so is the fellow I just read about (and I can’t find the article to use his name here) who has won a prize after publishing a one-sentence novel. It isn’t a short novel, as you might think. It’s just that there is only one sentence in it. For sure he’s Irish, and not German? Anyway, this is an illustration of my point for this week, which follows directly.

One of my favorite quotes, and my favorite from Picasso, is “You must learn the rules like a professional in order to break them like an artist.” He said that in Spanish, but the meaning carries over nicely. And he’s right: there is a good reason that The Elements of Style by Skrunk and White is the #1 recommended book on any “Books About How to Write” list. You gotta know them rules, bub! But, once you know them well, you don’t have to follow them! A one-sentence novel sure as heck doesn’t. Remember that format from school, the one where you write an introduction, a body, and a conclusion? Yeah, well, that ain’t gonna happen in one sentence, is it? But, he sold the thing, and he won an award for it. Those Irish, huh?

Another famous Irish author who ignored every rule he could think of (seemingly) is James Joyce. Oddly, I don’t find his Ulysses difficult to understand. There are long passages that are basically the thoughts of the principle, but that’s easy enough to follow. Heck, his thoughts are tame, compared to some of mine. But, I digress. Joyce actually, of course, broke those rules like an artist, which is to say, deliberately, and to excellent effect. Without a complete grounding in the Strunk and White stuff, a long run-on sentence is just a mess. Ask anyone who has tried to read one. Or, tried to write one before they knew the rules as well as did James Joyce. Joyce is deservedly praised for being a great writer. I’ll bet he didn’t thumb his nose at the rules when he was in whatever passed for middle school in those days. He knew them well, and he ignored them properly.

And that, readers, is my pedantic rantlet for this week. Stay in touch — you never know what somebody with Irish ancestry will come up with next!