Esquire’s 70 Greatest Sentences
Seventy lines that sparkle, invoke, provoke, or are just damn enjoyable to read.
Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well.
– Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” 1936
So deeply imbedded was she in my consciousness that for the first few years of school I believed that each of my teachers was actually my mother in disguise. – Philip Roth, “A Jewish Patient Begins His Analysis,” 1967
It satisfies every childlike curiosity, every muted desire, whatever there is in him of the scientist, the poet, the primitive seer, the watcher of fire and shooting stars, whatever obsessions eat at the night side of his mind, whatever sweet and dreamy yearnings he has ever felt for nameless places faraway, whatever earth sense he possesses, the neural pulse of some wilder awareness, a sympathy for beasts, whatever belief in an immanent
vital force, the Lord of Creation, whatever secret harboring of the idea of human oneness, whatever wishfulness and simplehearted hope, whatever of too much and not enough, all at once and little by little, whatever burning urge to escape responsibility and routine, escape his own overspecialization, the circumscribed and inward spiraling self, whatever remnants of his boyish longing to fly, his dreams of strange spaces and eerie heights, his fantasies of happy death, whatever indolent and sybaritic leanings, lotus-eater, smoker of grasses and herbs, blue-eyed gazer into space – all these are satisfied, all collected and massed in that living body, the sight he sees from the window. – Don DeLillo, “Human Moments in World War III,” 1983
“That shit don’t mean fuck to me.” – David Sedaris, “You Can’t Kill the Rooster,” 1998
Twenty-four years later, on Wednesday, August 28, at nine-thirty o’clock, in full view of ten million people, the little door in William F. Buckley Jr.’s forehead suddenly opened and out sprang that wild cuckoo which I had always known was there but had wanted so much for others, preferably millions of others, to get a good look at. – Gore Vidal, “A Distasteful Encounter with William F. Buckley Jr.,” 1969
They are a curious mixture of Spanish tradition, American imitation and insular limitation. – Helen Lawrenson, “Latins Are Lousy Lovers,” 1936
I shall sit at the calcified knobs that once were his knees and summon the courage to ask of Zim the question burning in my soul: Why does Joe Torre wear a wristwatch in the dugout? – Scott Raab, “Zimmer,” 2001
Commonsense has trampled down many a gentle genius whose eyes had delighted in a too early moonbeam of some too early truth; commonsense has back-kicked dirt at the loveliest of queer paintings because a blue tree seemed madness to its well-meaning hoof; commonsense has prompted ugly but strong nations to crush their fair but frail neighbors the moment a gap in history offered a chance that it would have been ridiculous not to exploit. – Vladimir Nabokov, “How to Read, How to Write,” 1980
But given the world they were running from, a world of rules, where you have to drive between the lines, pay your taxes, and not sleep with your sister, a terminus was inevitable. – Daniel Voll, “An American Family,” 1998
The barefooted drummer, beating a folded newspaper with whisk-brooms in lieu of a drum, stirs the eye’s ear like a blast of brasses in a midnight street. – Ralph Ellison, “Manners and Morals at Minton’s, 1941: The Setting for a Revolution,” 1959