I’m always on the lookout for well-put phrases. I am now starting to read things twice — once for meaning, twice for good writing.
In this week’s New Yorker I spotted this gem of a sentence describing Segolene Royal after her defeat in the French elections:
Suddenly, amid the hubbub, an ivory blur: the leader in the flesh, her smile intact, sailing through the flashbulbs with that faint uplift of the head with which the nobly defeated used to mount the tumbrel.
Elsewhere in the New Yorker, Louis Menand opens his brief essay on college with a fantastic mini-example. Besides the vivid (and utterly true) story, it’s also a highly original way to start a discussion of a topic (college and college admissions) which the mainstream media by now treats so dully.
On your first sleepover, your best friend’s mother asks you if you would like a tuna-fish-salad sandwich. Your own mother gives you tuna-fish-salad sandwiches all the time, so you say, "Sure." When you bite into the sandwich, though, you realize, too late, that your best friend’s mother’s tuna-fish-salad tastes nothing like the tuna-fish salad your mother makes. You never dreamed that it was possible for there to be more than one way to prepare tuna-fish salad. And what’s with the bread? It’s brown, and appears to have tiny seeds in it. What is more unnerving is the fact that your best friend obviously considers his mother’s tuna-fish salad to be perfectly normal and has been eating it with enjoyment all his life. Later on, you discover that the pillows in your best friend’s house are filled with some kind of foam-rubber stuff instead of feathers. What kind of human beings are these? At two o’clock in the morning, you throw up, and your mother comes and takes you home.
College, from which some 1.5 million people will graduate this year, is, basically, a sleepover with grades.