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A Sentence About a Sentence I Love, by Gary Amdahl

“He projected himself all day, in thought, straight over the bristling line of hard unconscious heads and into the other, the real, the waiting life; the life that, as soon as he had heard behind him the click of his great house-door, began for him, on the jolly corner, as beguilingly as the slow opening bars of some rich music follows the tap of the conductor’s wand.”

—From Henry James’s “The Jolly Corner”

 

Here, and here, and there, and there, everywhere in point of fact, from “Professor Fargo” to The Ivory Tower, and necessarily so, in something like, guessing roughly, a hundred thousand sentences—necessarily because every brick in the cathedral must be as soundly baked and carefully laid as every other, because arches do not build themselves, and because we have seen that cathedrals collapse—we find the ur-principle of Henry James’s art (not solely Henry James’s art, but Proust’s and mine and yours too) which is no less enigmatic, no less subtle, simple, strange, terrifying, and consoling than the painting of an aurochs deep in a cave in Lascaux or Altamira (were we educating and entertaining ourselves or had we leapt into consciousness of what we now call dark matter—no less paradoxical to even the most lithe and tolerant observer of the higher brain functions, and especially troubling to proponents of so-called healthy minds, than the idea that there is nothing more real than the imagination, an assertion by which the artist lays claim to everything.

Gary Amdahl is the author of Much Ado About Everything: Oration on the Dignity of the Novelist, The Daredevils, Across My Big Brass Bed, The Intimidator Still Lives in Our Hearts, I Am Death, Visigoth, and A Motel of the Mind, with Leslie Brody. His stories, essays, poetry, book and theater reviews, literary feature articles, and interviews have appeared in Agni, A Public Space, The Massachusetts Review, The Gettysburg Review, Fiction, The Quarterly, New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Nation, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Zyzzyva, Rain Taxi, and elsewhere.

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