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Every writer, I dare say, is in search for the perfect sentence—words stringed with meaning and laced with beauty. It is a sentence that creates a certain mystical air by words both written and implied.
To a reader, such a sentence arrests the attention and halts, for a moment, the process of reading. To a writer, the same incites jealousy and admiration simultaneously. In either case, a pause is deserved.
Though elusive, the perfect sentence is captured by the most brilliant of writers. James Salter, whom I, regrettably, was unacquainted with before his recent passing, was one. His essay, The Paradise of the Library, is to me an extraordinary piece.
The love of books, the possession of them, can be thought of as an extension of one’s self or being, not separate from a love of life but rather as an extra dimension of it, and even of what comes after. “Paradise is a library,” as Borges said.
Salter’s sentences, which he was known for, like the one above, were…magical. That essay charmed me. What bibliophile could resist giddiness in reading “the promise of solitude and discovery” in books, or the “disinclination to part with a book after it was acquired,” or “reading has the power not only to demolish time and span the ages, but also the capacity to make one feel more human—human meaning at with humanity—and possibly less savage.”
Abraham J. Heschel is another one of my favorites. I could never forget the first time I came across this sentence—I had to stop reading, jaw dropped, literally.
To become aware of the ineffable is to part company with words. The essence, the tangent to the curve of human experience, lies beyond the limits of language. Man Is Not Alone, p. 16
The entire book Man Is Not Alone is filled with stunning and solemn sentences like the one above.
The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, p. 46
I am, in fact, a happier person because these sentences exist in the world. I am perfectly pleased that part of life’s joy is to take pleasure in other people’s creation. At the same time, I, too, am in search for my own perfect sentence. And if we can all delight in each other’s words, then paradise must be a library.