The Long Sentence

Long, well-crafted sentences are beautiful. One of the longest printed sentences is a four thousand plus word behemoth from James Joyce’s Ulysses, but it is not the longest by far.

The long sentence is a way for writers to flex their literary muscles. They can be used to develop an idea, provide detailed descriptions, and create tension. But a lengthy sentence can also be confusing and annoying.

The long sentence has a similar film technique: the long take.

A great example is the six-minute long take in the first season of True Detective. In the fourth episode, the director uses a long take to amplify the tension as Rust Cohle helps a biker gang perform a dangerous plan.

I want to share a long sentence from House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

It’s too dark and difficult and without whim, and if you didn’t notice I’m in a whimsical (inconsequential) frame of mind right now, talking (scribbling) aimlessly and strangely about cats, enjoying all the rules in this School of Whim, the play of it,—Where Have I Moved? What Have I Muttered? Who Have I Met?—the frolic and the drift, as I go thinking now, tripping really, over the notion of eighty or more of Zampano’s dusty cats …

The entire quote is about 700 words long. To me, the passage evokes a playfulness almost like a cat playing with yarn. I love House of Leaves, and I encourage you to try that labyrinthine novel.

What do you think about long sentences? Please leave a comment using a single long sentence or post a six-minute video response because this post is about long form (so meta!), and I promise I won’t critique your grammar.

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