George R. R. Martin can craft a sentence – “Yet even so, as she stood upon the forecastle watching her dragons chase each other across a cloudless blue sky, Daenerys Targaryen was as happy as she could ever remember being.” As a reader, my problem is that he writes way too damn many sentences, and too many of them add nothing to story. I’m not fond of writers who expect me to edit their work to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Tomorrow’s words and today’s sentences
In one of those chairs designed to let the user know that, yes, sit here, but not too long, the widow sat, glancing up the receiving line that backed up the aisle, then to his mother next to her, then to the flowered covered coffin, then to the face in front of her, taking a hand, whispering a thanks, almost hearing the insubstantial music floating all around her.
In the diffused light of the warehouse, the coffins, all with an odd mustard finish, sat in a row, carefully armored in cardboard and straps against the troubles of travel, waiting for the order to be completed and the journey to begin.
The thing is, have the coffin match the personality of the deceased; after all why pretend the blacksmith was a warrior, or the kangaroo a rhino?
The torrent of tears, the hands resting on the edge of the coffin, knuckles white, shoulders shaking, was, for a man who had shrewdly and painstakingly built his image of stone and steel, unseemly, she thought.
In a torrent of words, her face washed tears, snot bubbling from her nose, she recited the story in all its complexity, chapter and verse.
by Carolyn Forché
WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD is true. I was in his house. His wife carried
a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went
out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the
cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over
the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English.
Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to
scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs or cut his hands to lace. On
the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had
dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of
bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief
commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was
some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot
said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed
himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries
home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like
dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one
of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water
glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As
for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck them-
selves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last
of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some
of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the
ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.