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slide1

L o n g

sentences

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The doctor arrives with a needle and wields it over the cat while explaining that this isn’t it, this isn’t the humane and loving part, this is a mild sedative, he’s administering it because the cat still has some “fight” left in him, and because fighting with the cat now requires almost all of my attention I don’t have time to reflect on this, and next the doctor is gently laying a small stainless steel bowl in front of the cat and explaining that the sedative might cause the cat to throw up, and now the cat is frantic and, indeed, retching, and the towel that had been folded beneath him is wrapped around him and covered with puke, and the vet tries to position the bowl better as if there is a shred of dignity left to be salvaged here, and then the sound of an electric razor hums over the sound of the cat coughing up his guts and the doctor is shaving a section of fur from the cat’s rear right leg.

-- my memoir

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I fly past the smaller shops, past the men drinking wine on the benches, past the old men playing dominoes, past the restaurants and the Arabs selling clothes and rugs and shoes, past the twins my age, Ahok and Awach Ugieth, two very kind and hardworking girls carrying bundles of kindling on their heads, Hello, Hello, we say, and finally I step into the darkness of my father’s stores, completely out of breath.

-- Dave Eggers, What is the What?

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It’s the end of the workday, and the traffic’s very bad, so getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping, and the store’s hideously, fluorescently lit, and infused with soul-killing Muzak or corporate pop, and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be, but you can’t just get in and quickly go out: you have to wander all over the huge, overlit store’s crowded aisles to find the stuff you want, and you have to maneuver your junk cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts, and of course there are also the glacially slow old people and the spacy people and ADHD kids who all block the aisle and you have to grit your teeth and try to be polite as you ask them to let you by, and eventually, finally, you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough checkout lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush, so the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating, but you can’t take your fury out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college. . . but anyway you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and pay for your food, and wait to get your check or card authenticated by a machine, and then get told to “have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death, and then you have to take your creepy flimsy plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and try to load the bags in your car in such a way that everything doesn’t fall out of the bags and roll around in the trunk on the way home, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive rush-hour traffic, etcetera, etcetera.

-- David Foster Wallace, “This Is Water”

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All across the courtyard, where the paving stones had given way to the underground thrust of weeds, we saw the disorder of the post of the guard who had fled, the weapons abandoned in their racks, the big, long rough-planked tables and plates containing the leftovers of the Sunday lunch that had been interrupted by panic, in shadows we saw the annex where government house had been, coloured fungi and pale irises among the unresolved briefs whose normal course had been slower than the pace of the driest of lives, in the center of the courtyard we saw the baptismal font where more than five generations had been christened with martial sacraments, in the rear we saw the ancient viceregal stable which had been transformed into a coach house, and among the camellias and butterflies we saw the berlin from stirring days, the wagon from the time of the plague, the coach from the year of the comet, the hearse from progress in order, the sleep-walking limousine of the first century of peace, all in good shape under the dusty cobwebs and all painted with the colours of the flag.

-- Gabriel Marcia Marquez, The Autumn of the Patriarch

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Elizabeth, New Jersey, when my mother was being raised there in a flat over her father’s grocery store, was an industrial port a quarter the size of Newark, dominated by the Irish working class and their politicians and the tightly knit parish life that revolved around the town’s many churches, and though I never heard her complain of having been pointedly ill-treated in Elizabeth as a girl, it was not until she married and moved to Newark’s new Jewish neighborhood that she discovered the confidence that led her to become first a PTA “grade mother,” then a PTA vice president in charge of establishing a Kindergarten Mothers’ Club, and finally the PTA president, who, after attending a conference in Trenton on infantile paralysis, proposed an annual March of Dimes dance on January 30 – President Roosevelt’s birthday – that was accepted by most schools.

-- Philip Roth, The Plot Against America

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Past the flannel plains and blacktop graphs and skylines of canted rust, and past the tobacco-​brown river overhung with weeping trees and coins of sunlight through them on the water downriver, to the place beyond the windbreak, where untilled fields simmer shrilly in the a.m. heat: shattercane, lamb’s‑quarter, cutgrass, sawbrier, nutgrass, jimsonweed, wild mint, dandelion, foxtail, muscadine, spinecabbage, goldenrod, creeping charlie, butter-​print, nightshade, ragweed, wild oat, vetch, butcher grass, invaginate volunteer beans, all heads gently nodding in a morning breeze like a mother’s soft hand on your cheek.

-- David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

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It satisfies every childlike curiosity, every muted desire, whatever there is in him of the scientist, the poet, the primitive seer, the watcher of fire and shooting stars, whatever obsessions eat at the night side of his mind, whatever sweet and dreamy yearnings he has ever felt for nameless places faraway, whatever earth sense he possesses, the neural pulse of some wilder awareness, a sympathy for beasts, whatever belief in an immanent vital force, the Lord of Creation, whatever secret harboring of the idea of human oneness, whatever wishfulness and simplehearted hope, whatever of too much and not enough, all at once and little by little, whatever burning urge to escape responsibility and routine, escape his own overspecialization, the circumscribed and inward spiraling self, whatever remnants of his boyish longing to fly, his dreams of strange spaces and eerie heights, his fantasies of happy death, whatever indolent and sybaritic leanings, lotus-eater, smoker of grasses and herbs, blue-eyed gazer into space--all these are satisfied, all collected and massed in that living body, the sight he sees from the window.

-- Don DeLillo, “Human Moments in World War III”

slide9

Whatever the fate might have been for our ship, which was now traveling like a coffin in the cyclone, Sir Hector enjoyed a few good days letting free the truth about his wealth, his hidden pleasures, his genuine affection for his wife, while the vessel plunged into the bowels of the sea and then emerged like an encrusted coelacanth, the ocean pouring off its features, so that machinists, thrown against the red-hot engines, burned their arms, and the supposed cream of the cream of the East stumbled against pickpockets in the long corridors, and band members fell off the dais in the midst of 'Blame It on My Youth,' as Cassius and I lay spread-eagled on the Promenade Deck, under the rain.-- Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table

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This and nothing else is the desperately sought and tragically fragile writer's process: in his imagination, he sees made-up people doing things – sees clearly – and in the act of wondering what they will do next, he sees what they will do next, and all this he writes down in the best, most accurate words he can find, understanding even as he writes that he may have to find better words later, and that a change in the words may mean a sharpening or deepening of the vision, the fictive dream or vision becoming more and more lucid, until reality, by comparison, seems cold, tedious, and dead.-- John Gardner, “Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Novelist?”

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There is in the Midlands a single-line tramway system which boldly leaves the country town and plunges off into the black, industrial countryside, up hill and down dale, through the long ugly villages of workmen’s houses, over canals and railways, past churches perched high and nobly over the smoke and shadows, through stark, grimy cold little market-places, tilting away in a rush past cinemas and shops down to the hollow where the collieries are, then up again, past a little rural church, under the ash trees, on a rush to the terminus, the last little ugly place of industry, the cold little town on the edge of the wild, gloomy country beyond.

-- D.H. Lawrence, “Tickets, Please”

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Did it matter then, she asked herself, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, herself.

-- Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

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When I first began writing I felt that writing should go on I still do feel that it should go on but when I first began writing I was completely possessed by the necessity that writing should go on and if writing should go on what had colons and semi-colons to do with it, what had commas to do with it what had periods to do with it what had small letters and capitals to do with it to do with writing going on which was at the time the most profound need I had in connection with writing.

-- Gertrude Stein, Lectures in America