What’s in a Long Sentence?

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  01.17.12 | 8:57 PM ET

Apparently some copy editors have taken issue with Pico Iyer’s use of long sentences. In the Los Angeles Times recently, the World Hum contributor makes an eloquent case for them (while employing them often), explaining that he uses them “as a small protest against—and attempt to rescue any readers I might have from—the bombardment of the moment.”

We live in a world of sound bites and bumper stickers, he writes.

Enter (I hope) the long sentence: the collection of clauses that is so many-chambered and lavish and abundant in tones and suggestions, that has so much room for near-contradiction and ambiguity and those places in memory or imagination that can’t be simplified, or put into easy words, that it allows the reader to keep many things in her head and heart at the same time, and to descend, as by a spiral staircase, deeper into herself and those things that won’t be squeezed into an either/or. With each clause, we’re taken further and further from trite conclusions—or that at least is the hope—and away from reductionism, as if the writer were a dentist, saying “Open wider” so that he can probe the tender, neglected spaces in the reader (though in this case it’s not the mouth that he’s attending to but the mind).

In excerpting this, I suppose I’m perpetuating the same sound-bite world that Iyer is protesting against. McLuhan was right. The medium is the message. But nothing is stopping you from reading the piece in its entirety, right?



1 Comment for What’s in a Long Sentence?

Sudhakar 01.20.12 | 8:01 AM ET

I have enjoyed the moments. They are providing the best in travels.

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