The sound the water made was like a voice….

Word count: 286 words

Reading time: Just over 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. Here is one by Patrick deWitt.

The positive buzz surrounding the novel The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt,  kept me reading it this summer. Otherwise, I would have given up by page 35. It’s a Western — not my genre — and the lead characters are a couple of hired killers — brothers with the surname of “Sisters.” The novel is filled with jokes like this.

While I didn’t hate the book by the time I’d finished it, I didn’t much like it either. But you might. I think this is a zero-sum work: you’ll either love it or you won’t. (Amazon scores it as follows: 136 four to five stars; 18 one to two stars.)

All that aside, I’m grateful that it gave me my sentence of the week.

“He was saying nothing and would say nothing, I knew, but the sound the water made was like a voice, the way it hurried and splashed, chattering, then falling quiet but for the rare drip, as if in humble contemplation.”

I like the way the author manages this 40-word sentence, keeping it readable by moving swiftly from the abstract (He was saying nothing and would say nothing) to the concrete (the sound the water made…) I also enjoy the personification of water — comparing it to a person who speaks, hurries, splashes, chatters and memorably, drips, as if in humble contemplation.

The author is a fine writer and if he’d picked a different genre, I suspect I would have felt more warmly about his book.

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