Pining at a closer proximity…

Word count: 295 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 Susan Orlean.

I’ve been a Susan Orlean fan for years. I met her on the pages of the New Yorker, then in her book, the Orchid Thief, then in the movie made from that book, Adaptation (2002) starring Meryl Streep.

I admire her writing style which I find both accessible and sophisticated and I like her wry take on the human condition. In a Feb. 11 & 18/13 New Yorker profile of painter Brendan O’Connell (see summary here) Orlean recounts the story of a Walmart artist.

I am not making this up! O’Connell is a painter who makes Walmart — its products, its stores and its shoppers — the primary subject of his art. (He’s also friends with actor Alec Baldwin and you can read a conversation between the two of them on O’Connell’s website.)

This is the kind of subject that screams out for a wry take and Orlean delivers it. The article is filled with sharp comments — but never so sharp that they cut. Here is an example which has become my sentence of the week:

A girl he loved had broken up with him [O’Connell] and moved to Paris, so, after graduating, he moved to Paris, too, in order to pine for her at closer proximity. 

So many things to admire here! Doesn’t this sentence perfectly capture the wanderlust of young adults? The love of being in love? The passion for hopeless causes? I also like the alliteration, “pine at closer proximity.” Definitely one of the best sentences I’ve read all week.

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