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Long Literary Sentences

What is the longest sentence in literature?

One of the longest sentences in literature is certainly in William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! (1936). That sentence is composed of 1,288 words and is Quentin Compson’s silent thoughts.

“There was a wisteria vine blooming for the second time that summer on a wooden trellis before one window, into which sparrows came now and then in random gusts, making a dry vivid dusty sound before going away: and opposite Quentin, Miss Coldfield in the eternal black which she had worn for forty-three years now, whether for sister, father, or nothusband none knew, sitting so bolt upright in the straight hard chair that was so tall for her that her legs hung straight and rigid as if she had iron shinbones and ankles, clear of the floor with that air of impotent and static rage like children’s feet, and talking in that grim haggard amazed voice until at last listening would renege and hearing-sense self-confound and the long-dead object of her impotent yet indomitable frustration would appear, as though by outraged recapitulation evoked, quiet inattentive and harmless, out of the biding and dreamy and victorious dust.” — Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Molly Bloom's soliloquy in the James Joyce novel Ulysses (1922) is also a consideration at 3,687 words, but I knock this one out because it really is just a bunch of sentences without punctuation.

Joyce was known for "stream of consciousness" which was quite a popular stylistic device in the 1920s and 30s. It made those run-on sentences that your English marked you down for on compositions legitimate. At least, that was the line I used on my tenth-grade English teacher, Mr. Reece, who replied that "Those writers know the rules, so now they can break them."

Victor Hugo has a nice 800-plus line in Les Misérables.

John Updike was very careful with his sentences, but he used a few unusually long ones across his many novels.

“But then they were married (she felt awful about being pregnant before but Harry had been talking about marriage for a while and anyway laughed when she told him in early February about missing her period and said Great she was terribly frightened and he said Great and lifted her put his arms around under her bottom and lifted her like you would a child he could be so wonderful when you didn’t expect it in a way it seemed important that you didn’t expect it there was so much nice in him she couldn’t explain to anybody she had been so frightened about being pregnant and he made her be proud) they were married after her missing her second period in March and she was still little clumsy dark-complected Janice Springer and her husband was a conceited lunk who wasn’t good for anything in the world Daddy said and the feeling of being alone would melt a little with a little drink.”  —  Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

This extremely long sentence became a kind of game. Here are some examples that seem more like a gimmick to me.

Jonathan Coe’s The Rotter’s Club, which ends with a 33-page-long, 13,955 word sentence.

Czech and Polish novelists have written book-length sentences since the 1960s.

French writer Mathias Énard has a one-sentence novel, Zone, that is 517 pages long with only 23 chapter breaks to allow you not go insane while reading.

In Jamaica Kincaid’s “The Letter from Home,” she has a long one full of commas. I can see why she wants it to run fast as a sentence, but you could easily make some of the commas into periods and it would work just as well.

"I milked the cows, I churned the butter, I stored the cheese, I baked the bread, I brewed the tea, I washed the clothes, I dressed the children; the cat meowed, the dog barked, the horse neighed, the mouse squeaked, the fly buzzed, the goldfish living in a bowl stretched its jaws; the door banged shut, the stairs creaked, the fridge hummed, the curtains billowed up, the pot boiled, the gas hissed through the stove, the tree branches heavy with snow crashed against the roof; my heart beat loudly thud! thud!, tiny beads of water grew folds, I shed my skin…"



Da Vinci and Geology, Fossils and the Bible

Leonardo da Vinci understood geology based on physical evidence he found. His studies of rocks, fossils, and river erosion led him to the conclusion that the world is far older than stated in the book of Genesis, and he argued that marine fossils found in the mountains were the result of falling sea levels, not the Great Flood.

He wrote:
And a little beyond the sandstone conglomerate, a tufa has been formed, where it turned towards Castel Florentino; farther on, the mud was deposited in which the shells lived, and which rose in layers according to the levels at which the turbid Arno flowed into that sea. And from time to time the bottom of the sea was raised, depositing these shells in layers, as may be seen in the cutting at Colle Gonzoli, laid open by the Arno which is wearing away the base of it; in which cutting the said layers of shells are very plainly to be seen in clay of a bluish colour, and various marine objects are found there.



A page of Leonardo's Paris Manuscript I is covered in sketches of marine fossils.

Among them is a honeycomb-like array of hexagons that palaeontologists think might constitute the first recorded observation of an enigmatic trace fossil called Paleodictyon.




He recognized fossils as petrified remains of former living organisms and even applied paleoecological principles to reconstruct the deposition of sedimentary rocks. Of course, he never published his notebooks and his theories were not well known during and for many years after his death.

Later, Nicolas Steno (1638-1686), with his stratigraphic principles, Robert Hooke (1635-1703), with his paleontological interpretation of fossils, and finally James Hutton (1726-1797), with his earth-theory, would make discoveries and theories that would have an impact on scientific thinking.

Art of the Cinema



 Reposted from Weekends in Paradelle

Art imitates life and sometimes life imitates art and sometimes films imitate art.

Filmmaker Vugar Efendi put together a compilation of shots from films along with the paintings that inspired them.

You may have seen filmmakers pay homage to older films by imitating shots - the original Star Wars film has shots that echo a number of other films including John Ford's The Searchers and the Stranger Things series on Netflix has lots of tributes to films from the 1980s that the filmmakers watch and loved.

Paintings may be less obvious. Not everyone would pick up on Jean-Luc Godard filming a shot based on a painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. It is an old tradition. One referenced in Efendi's supercut is from the 1927 silent film Metropolis.

L'empire des lumières influenced William Friedkin's The Exorcist, and La Robe du soir is alluded to in Barry Jenkins' Moonlight while Architecture au clair de Lune slips into Peter Weir's The Truman Show. Some instances are unexpected: Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy used in in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. Sometimes the reference is not exact but a scene feels like it is "in the style of"a painter - such as the look of the Bates's home in Hitchcock's Psycho looking like a house from an Edward Hopper painting - but without the color or sunlight. (Wim Wenders used a much more literal recreation of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks in his film The End of Violence.)

I first saw these videos mentioned on the Slate website, but the three-part video has been posted in other places too.

Here are the pairings so that you can check you "art of the cinema" knowledge.