A deep respect for the money it loathes…

Word count: 251 words

Reading time: About 1 minute

The best way to improve your writing skills is to emulate the work of others. For this reason I regularly write down sentences I’ve picked up in my own recent reading.

I like cleverness and wit in writing. Perhaps this is the reason I so much enjoy the New Yorker. A recent article, titled “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and written by Sarah Payne Stuart, contains a sentence the illustrates my point. The writer grew up in Concord, MA, a town settled by Puritans in 1635. Concord has been the hometown of people ambivalent about their money, and the author illustrates this with the story of her own real estate purchases. Here is a sentence from that story:

For at the root of the tangled New England neurosis is deep respect for the money it loathes.

So much about this sentence is exceptionally clever. Why do I think that? I like:

  • The way it conjures an image of a large, old-growth tree with a convoluted, snarly root.
  • The words “tangled,” “neurosis,” “deep respect,” and “loathes.”
  • The way the writer uses “neurosis” as a plain fact, without explanation or defense.
  • The alliteration of New England neurosis.
  • The way she compares neurosis to nature — a flip side of personification.
  • The unexpected ending — not the money people love, but the money they loathe.
To my eye, this 18-word sentence is just about perfect. What do you think?


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