Word count: 373 words
Reading time: Just over 1 minute
A great way to improve your writing skills is to emulate the work of others. That’s why, every week, I present a sentence that I’d happily imitate. Today’s comes from the novel Capital, by John Lanchester.
I hadn’t heard of John Lanchester but my husband picked up his latest novel, Capital, from the library, and after finishing it urged me to read it ,too. I dragged my heels for a few days because I didn’t feel like attacking a long book (it’s 529 pages) but now that I’m in the thick of it, I find I can’t put the book down. In fact, I’ll be (happily) paying fines because even though I’m a fast reader I won’t have the time to finish the book before its Saturday due-date.
Lanchester is a British journalist and novelist whose work has appeared in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New York Review of Books and Esquire. He is also the author of the novel The Debt to Pleasure, which won a 1996 Whitbread Book Award and the 1997 Hawthornden Prize.
I can’t offer much a review of Capital just yet — I hit page 201 at bedtime last night — but I can tell you I’m enjoying it immensely. Of the 59 reviewers on Amazon, more than half give it four or more stars. Many reviewers compare Lanchester’s writing to that of Tom Wolf, although I find Lancaster’s understanding of character to be a bit deeper and more nuanced.
Here’s an example from the book’s early pages:
He was six foot three, just short enough to feel no need to conceal his height by stooping –so that even his tallness appeared a form of ease, as if gravity had, when he was growing up, exerted less effect on him than on more ordinary people.
I appreciated Lanchester’s beautifully expressed and sophisticated analysis of society’s view of height. Tall people have a number of advantages, such as their ability to command a room. It had never occurred to me that they might be seen as people who could defeat basic rules such as gravity, but as soon as I read the sentence I nodded in agreement. I also appreciate the juxtaposition of “tall” and “ordinary.”