The Elements of Style

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Description: So what makes this sentence so effective? Writes Fish: "The fulcrum of the sentence is 'while': on either side of it are two apparently very different kinds of observations. 'It was in the books' is metaphorical. [John Updike] imagines, correctly, that this moment will be memorialized in stories and in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, and he confers that mythical status on the moment before it is completed, before the ball actually goes out of the park. Indeed, in his sentence the ball never does get out of the park. It is 'still in the sky,' a phrase that has multiple meanings; the ball is still in the sky in the sense that its motion is arrested; and it is still in the sky in the sense that it is, and will remain forever, in the sky of the books, in the record of the game's highest, most soaring achievements. On the surface 'in the books' and 'in the sky' are in distinct registers, one referring to the monumentality the home run will acquire in history, the other describing the ball's actual physical arc; but the registers are finally, and indeed immediately (this sentence goes fast), the same: the physical act and its transformation into myth occur simultaneously; or rather, this is what Updike makes us feel as we glide through this deceptively simple sentence composed entirely of monosy hables."Copying out stretches of prose by classic writers may help get a fledgling scribbler to understand the rhythms an artist employs, but, just as syntax is a necessary glue, a writer has to have something to say, and it has to be comprised of more than just stellar sentences. (Remember, Theodore Dreiser may not have been much of a stylist, but he could be a powerful writer.) What Fish seems to forget in writing about Updike is the "Flaubert insight" he shared earlier: What makes the sentence great is all that comes before that singular moment - and all that comes after. It's not just the "mot juste" - or, in Updike's case, 12 "mot juste" strung together. It's th
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