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A Sentence About a Sentence I Love, by Ken Sparling

“There was a wall.”


This is the first sentence of THE DISPOSSESED by Ursula K. Le Guin, and the book goes on, of course, with a bunch more sentences (it’s a novel), and the wall gets described, both its physical appearance and its social implications, and the description turns out to be a powerful and exciting exploration of what a wall can mean, a description that builds to a beautiful climax that references the entire universe beyond the wall, but it’s the first sentence that blows my mind, not because of the words within the sentence, which are pretty ordinary words, after all, but because of the fact that Le Guin has the audacity to call a full stop at the end of this sentence; it’s this full stop, preceded by four paltry words that are hardly even able to get anything underway, that makes my heart quicken, that has kept me going back to this sentence again and again over the years since the first time I read it, that has kept me wondering about this sentence — and it has to be Le Guin’s fearless confidence in herself, her belief that what she is about to give us in the wake of these four words will fully justify what seems on the surface to be an extraordinarily ordinary first sentence, that keeps me telling people that this is the most amazing first sentence I’ve ever encountered in any book I’ve ever read.

5 thoughts on “A Sentence About a Sentence I Love, by Ken Sparling

  1. And yet it is a sentence that prefigures the entire novel. Because isn’t The Dispossessed all about walls between people, between cultures, between political ideas?

  2. Thanks Ken. Seeing this sentence today and showing someone reminded that someone they have ‘The Dispossessed’ (hardcover) in their to-get-rid-of pile.

    There was a post. The book is no longer in that pile.

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