Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Long-Winded Support of Long Sentences

I guess there's something to be said for very long sentences, for complex thoughts and musings in the manner of Victor Hugo or James Joyce, for a stream-of-consciousness type of communication that allows for something more than the "I just pooped" mentality of the modern Tweet, for a way of artistically sculpting the concentration of the reader rather than whipping it to attention in a series of bullet points and numbered and sub-numbered addendums that allow for nothing more than the transmittal of facts and information (much like the scrolling banner at the bottom of the screen that lists dates and numbers while the talking head of whichever corporate media channel you happen to be watching spews punditry and bias based on what the share holders want to hear--but never in sentences longer than seven or nine words, because the average American is at an eighth grade reading level, so God only knows what listening level we're all at) because, as you know or as you should know, facts and information are not at all the same thing as knowledge and understanding, and I really think that School House Rock should have been just a bit more specific when telling American youth that knowledge is power without defining either knowledge or power, so that we watch TV and get statistics from forwarded emails and feel superior and smarter for having "learned" something, when actually all we've done is memorized something from a dubious source; in fact, I bet that most statistics are made up anyway, but I can't cite a source for that, it's just a gut hunch that is probably true (and I trust my gut hunches far more than I do statistics from the news any day of the week and twice on Sundays), and although I'll admit that a long sentence generally forms a formidable block of text that is probably intimidating to someone with an eighth grade reading level, there's something so limiting and final to a period, as though there's nothing more to be added to the sentence (which, as I'm sure you know is defined as "a grammatical unit of one or more words, bearing minimal syntactic relation to the words that precede or follow it, often preceded and followed in speech by pauses, having one of a small number of characteristic intonation patterns, and typically expressing an independent statement, question, request, command, etc.," and has no maximum number of words or characters to be defined as a sentence in the first place, which is really a good thing for Thomas Hardy and Mary Shelley, although it is interesting that it is "followed in speech by pauses," which is really what periods are meant to suggest anyway--they're a pause for breath in between thoughts and musings, not an end to the first thought with the second beginning with a capital letter, with no real connection between them, although anyone who's taken English Comp knows that there has to some kind of flow between them, it's just a matter of determining how much flow (and how strong of a pause for mental breath) there should be, of how much thought should fit between the pauses, and of how much you want your reader to remember... because when faced with six hundred words in a single sentence, the only thing your reader is likely to remember is thinking, "Uh oh."

4 comments:

Homero said...

Very Beat-ish rhythm.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

Actually I thought the same thing once it was done and I re-read it! Apparently reading a shitload of Kerouac and Ginsberg did some good after all.. now I can jam a la "I saw the best minds of a generation"

Jason Miller said...

I started to make a sentence diagram but was distracted after seven to nine words.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

It's probably for the best, since I can sum up the sentence diagram for this in one word: cluster****.

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