Bruce Springsteen’s eyes narrow, as if in hard light

Word count: 304 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

A great way to improve your writing skills is to emulate the work of others. Here is a sentence I read recently that I’d happily imitate.

I don’t know much about David Remnick, (pictured above) but I’m a big fan of his writing which I usually encounter in the New Yorker, where he works as the editor who succeeded Tina Brown. A former reporter and editor at the Washington Post, he became that newspaper’s Moscow correspondent in 1988. This provided him with the material for his Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empirewhich has now gone on my “must read” list. More recently, he’s also written a book-length profile of Barack Obama called The Bridge.

Perhaps to provide some relief from his passion for politics, Remnick also appears to have a particular interest in rock music. The July 30/12 issue of the New Yorker, featured his profile of Bruce Springsteen, headlined “We Are Alive.” The work was filled with many sentences I’d be happy to highlight, but the one I selected demonstrates how some judicious physical description of the main character can make a piece of writing appear as vibrant as a movie.

When he (Springsteen) takes in something new — a visitor, a thought, a passing car in the distance — his eyes narrow, as if in hard light, and his lower jaw protrudes a bit. 

I like the way Remnick’s  list of “something new” demonstrates the banality of the things that might cross Springsteen’s field of vision (a passing car) and I love the simile “as if in a hard light.” The detail of a lower jaw protruding a big helps cement this 31-word sentence as one that makes me feel as I was in the room, watching Springsteen.

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