Serviceable sentences, 31/10,000

I remember his telling me, with sly satisfaction, about a visiting French professor, who had asked, when it was explained to him that someone was an authority on Chaucer, “Il est intelligent tout de même?”
—Edmund Wilson, “Christian Gauss as a Teacher of Literature” (1952)

(Cf. Peter Elbow, from the “Introduction to the Second Edition” [1998] of Writing Without Teachers [1973]: “I spent a year trying to write a dissertation about metaphor—and language and thinking and learning and truth and reality. … But this topic was too large a swamp for a dissertation and so I turned to Chaucer whom I loved.”)


Serviceable sentences, 29/10,000

Contemporary US academia is today effectively a child exploitation ring, transforming crippling debts for students into billion dollar endowments for the institutions, while never ceasing to produce more Leftist discourse.
—dc cooper, “Notes on the Alt-Right,” (7 February 2017)

(Add this, this, or this, et. al., and the Right could turn the hyperbole of the above into a Brahmin blood libel.)


Serviceable sentences, 25/10,000

To insist in all particulars were an Herculean task, to reckon up insanas substructiones, insanos labores, insanum luxum, mad labours, mad books, endeavours, carriages, gross ignorance, ridiculous actions, absurd gestures; insanam gulam, insana jurgia [mad gluttony, mad disputes], insaniam villarum, as Tully terms them, madness of villages, stupend structures; as those Egyptian pyramids, labyrinths, and sphinxes, which a company of crowned asses, ad ostentationem opum [to show off their wealth], vainly built, when neither the architect nor king that made them, or to what use and purpose, are yet known: in insist in their hypocrisy, in constancy, blindness, rashness, dementem temeritatem, fraud, cozenage, malice, anger, impudence, ingratitude, ambition, gross superstition, tempora infecta et adulatione sordida, as in Tiberius’ times, such base flattery, stupend, parasitical fawning and colloguing, etc., brawls, conflicts, desires, contentions, it would ask an expert Vesalius to anatomize every member.
—Robert Burton, “Democritus Junior to the Reader,” The Anatomy of Melancholy (1638/1651)

(Cf. Beckett, three hundred years later: “For if you set out to mention everything you would never be done, and that’s what counts, to be done, to have done.”)


Serviceable sentences, 24/10,000

Moral convictions alter with the decades, while strong representations of perennial experiences and compelling arrangements of artistic form remain to speak, in astonishingly different ways, to each decade.
—John Pistelli, “In Defense of Aesthetic Criticism” (23 April 2017)

(Technically it’s a violation of my protocol—single sentences serviceable as units or quanta of influence by virtue of an axiomatic, gnomic, knowingly elliptical, or willfully evasive quality—but I append the sentence that follows the above because it points out that quality: “This is so obviously—and even empirically—true that I do not really see how anyone can deny it, unless you find Oedipus the King incomprehensible or unendurable because we no longer expose infants.”)


Serviceable sentences, 23/10,000

Thus like a Sayler by the Tempest hurl’d / A shore, the Babe is shipwrack’d on the World.
—John Dryden, “From Lucretius, Book the Fifth,” Sylvæ: or, the Second Part of Poetical Miscellanies (1685)

(Cf. Wordsworth’s translation of the same lines from De rerum natura: “Like a shipwreck’d Sailer tost / By rough waves on a perilous coast, / Lies the Babe ….” Dryden carries it away here.)


Serviceable sentences, 22/10,000

Don’t take yourself so darn seriously.
J. Reuben Clark; qtd. by Henry B. Eyring, “Walk with Me,” 187th Annual General Conference (1 April 2017)

(This is J. Reuben Clark’s Rule No.6:

“Don’t forget Rule No.6?”
“What’s Rule No.6?”
“Don’t take yourself so darn seriously.”
“What are the other five rules?”
“There aren’t any.”

Note that Rule No.6 is itself six words long.)