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A Sentence About a Sentence I Love: From Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield

 

A man who was married to someone who wasn’t me gave me an entire packing box of an old, almost complete set of Dickens’s novels as a love gift, the bulk of the volumes and their patient green covers causing constant reminder of the inconvenience of the feeling between us, which was most of the time secret and volatile, and out of David Copperfield I copied part of this long sentence, full of stops and turns and the interminable passing of sensations: “The uncertain pace of the hours, especially at night, when I would wake thinking it was morning, and find that the family had not yet gone to bed, and that all the length of the night had yet to come—I watched from a distance within the room, being ashamed to show myself at the window lest they should know I was a prisoner—the strange sensation of never hearing myself speak—the fleeting intervals of something like cheerfulness, which came with eating and drinking, and went away with it—the setting in of rain one evening, with a fresh smell, and its coming down faster and faster between me and the church, until…” though this is the middle of the sentence, and isn’t grammatical or even totally explicable until attached to its beginning and to its end.

Angela Woodward is the author of Natural Wonders, winner of the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Her other works include Origins and Other Stories, The Human Mind, and End of the Fire Cult. Her short fiction has won a Pushcart Prize and been included in Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web collection. Her work has won statewide awards from the Council for Wisconsin Writers and the Illinois Arts Council. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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