How to Write a Sentence

Have a listen to Al Mohler of Southern Seminary talking with Stanley Fish. The whole podcast is fascinating, but the best bit came when discussing Fish’s new book How to Write a Sentence. Talking about submitting himself to the words and sentences of another, he references Bunyan’s masterful Pilgrim’s Progress:

“I end the main body of the book with my favorite sentences from the book which is a sentence from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and that sentence describes the moment when Bunyan’s hero Christian having discovered that he is burdened with original sin and mourning to rid himself of it starts to run from his village toward a light that he barely sees and now here is the sentence, “now he had not run far away from his own door. But his wife and children perceiving it began crying after him to return. But the man put his fingers in his ears and ran on crying ‘life, life, eternal life.’” That is both a great sentence absolutely amazing sentence, the way in which it is structured and a lesson in what it is that sentences can and cannot do. Sentences can send us in the direction of something greater than they and therefore greater than us so sentences in a way perform their best office when they turn us in the direction of life, life, eternal life.”

He continues,

“…when the liberal ethos doesn’t so much as give up religion but puts it in a corner it has to worship something. And what it usually worships is art, and one form of that art are sentences. But I believe that the sentences that really matter don’t, neither invite nor allow that worship but in fact encourage you and invite you to search for something greater.” (Read the full transcript).

Great stuff, and hooray for someone who appreciates Pilgrim’s Progress as literature.

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