Favorite Sentences of 2005

Last year I began what I hope will become a tradition of posting my favorite sentences of the year. I’m happy to say that The Believer will be publishing ten of my favorites from 2005 in its February 2006 issue. Here are some others:

From 2005 Books

25. “We shall not go into his character, because the moment one says something about a writer all other writers take offense.” 
– Lend Me Your Character, Dubravka Ugresic

24. “I talked to my colleagues and we decided to give President Reagan a subscription at our special student rate, on the theory that he could use the education that we could supply."
 – A Matter of Opinion, Victor Navasky

23. "When I have occasion to write theatrical reviews, I feel like the state seal which Mark Twain’s Tom, having made himself King of England, used to crack nuts.” 
– Knight’s Move, Viktor Shklovsky

22. “The screamer BEST SEX I’VE EVER HAD – an instant classic – is widely regarded as the most libel-proof headline ever published by the Post.” 
– Character Studies: Encounters with the Curiously Obsessed, Mark Singer

21. “The Ticknors are an attractive couple, approximately Bonnie’s age, but so much richer that it’s as if they’re much older.” 
– A Changed Man, Francine Prose

20. “Kathrine didn’t believe what the minister was saying, and yet his words were comforting to her.” 
– Unformed Landscape, Peter Stamm

19. “The sunlight seemed faintly to smell of sharpened pencils, a sensation that comported very nicely with the feeling of renewed education you get from being psychoanalyzed.” 
– Indecision, Benjamin Kunkel

18. “It would be blasphemous, like juggling the bones of dead relatives.‚"
– Nice Big American Baby, Judy Budnitz

17. "Our interviews were better than most people’s shows.” 
– Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, Jeff Chang quoting Chuck D.

16. “Later my mother said that all men have it in them, the capacity to leave behind, at a moment’s notice, the world they know.” 
– Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, Dean Bakopoulos

15. “I began sawing through the layers of newspaper and glue, hiding my carnation knife once the manhole in the California sky was complete.” 
– The People of Paper, Salvador Plascencia

14. “The moment before he started a story was my favorite moment.” 
– Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

13. “The great forgetting of afternoon television is upon him, and he is asleep, and the commercials are singing their jingles into his slumbering ears, and they are telling him about excellent medications that he should ask his doctor about, Lipitor and Nexium and Elysium, they are telling him about feminine products, and they are telling him various things that will help him with the family wash, and they are telling him about other programs that he might enjoy, and all of these things are much louder than the responsibility of the last Sunday of the church calendar and the manifold signs of the end of the age, and he hears of Lipitor and Nexium and also Of the stars falling from the sky, and the heavenly bodies trembling."
 – The Diviners, Rick Moody

12. "Had he fallen, he worried as he closed his eyes for the last time and consigned his name to history (may it take it or leave it), his juices to the soil (was it soil?), merely to have it said he had fallen?” 
– A Child Again, Robert Coover

11. “But when I have read a long novel, when I have entered systemically into a sensibility that is alien to mine, the author’s or a character’s, when I have become interested in another person because he is interesting, not because he is privileged or great, there is a possibility that at the end I will be a degree less self-centered than I was at the beginning, that I will be a degree more able to see the world as another sees it."
- 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley

[For the top ten, see The Believer’s 2/06 issue or visit its site around then.]

From Other Books

14. "There remains the prayer to get through." 
– Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee

13. "But you know, when I see a car go by, and the bumper sticker says ‚ÄòKeep God in America,’ my reaction is, is he trying to get out?” 
– The Writer in Religion, William Gaddis

12. “Feuerbach is a famous atheist, but he is about as good on the joyful aspects of religion as anybody, and he loves the world.” 
– Gilead, Marilyn Robinson

11. “Under close scrutiny, the flowing river of time more closely resembles a giant block of ice with every moment forever frozen into place.” 
– The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, Brian Greene

10. “To have access to literature, world literature, was to escape the prison of national vanity, of philistinism, of compulsory provincialism, of inane schooling, of imperfect destinies and bad luck.” 
– Literature is Freedom, Susan Sontag

9. “He possessed the strength of those upon whom some great work is waiting, the silent endurance of those the world needs.” 
– August Rodin, Rainer Maria Rilke

8. “It is not enough that death reeks and stinks in the world, but now it takes on inimical human forms, prompting the self-defending survivors to strike and to hate, rightly and wrongly."
– Rising Up and Rising Down (Volume I), William T. Volmann

7. "I wish the bottom of things were not so far away.” 
– The Story of Our Lives, with The Monument and The Late Hour, Mark Strand

6. “‘Hard day,’ Julie says, smiling as much as she can but it doesn’t come easy to her and it looks like it’s going to tear her face.”  
– Happy Baby, Stephen Elliott

5. “It was a heavy rain, the sort of rain that falls in prison yards and beats a little firewood smoke back down garret chimneys, that leaks across floors, into forgotten prams, into the slaughterhouse and pots on the stove.” 
– The Lime Twig, John Hawkes

4. “It hasn’t violet’s rapid sexual shudder, or like a rough road the irregularity of ultramarine, the puddle in mauve like a pancake covered with cream, the disapproving purse to pink, the assertive brevity of red, the whine of green.” 
– On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry, William H. Gass

3. “What could Pound do, built of opinions like a shack, but hate every wind?‚"
– Finding a Form, William H. Gass

2. "When the wind was in the north you could hear them, the horses and the breath of the horses and the horses’ hooves that were shod in rawhide and the rattle of lances and the constant drag of the travois poles in the sand like the passing of some enormous serpent and the young boys naked on wild horses jaunty as circus riders and hazing wild horses before them and the dogs trotting with their tongues aloll and footslaves following half naked and sorely burdened and above all the low chant of their traveling song which the riders sang as they rode, nation and ghost of nation passing in a soft chorale across that mineral waste to darkness bearing lost to all history and all remembrance like a grail the sum of their secular and transitory and violent lives."
– All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

1. "—I… it isn’t … not now, she whispered, hacking his silence into shreds of shale, irregular fragments of its weight thrown against him.” 
– The Recognitions, William Gaddis