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How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One…

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One (original 2011; udgave 2012)

af Stanley Fish (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
8121820,422 (3.57)16
Fish has always been an aficionado of language, marveling at the adeptness of finely crafted sentences. Here he offers both sentence craft and sentence pleasure, skills invaluable to any writer (or reader).
Titel:How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One
Forfattere:Stanley Fish (Forfatter)
Info:Harper Paperbacks (2012), Edition: Reprint, 176 pages
Samlinger:School Library

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How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One af Stanley Fish (2011)


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Engelsk (17)  Piratisk (1)  Alle sprog (18)
Viser 1-5 af 18 (næste | vis alle)
My reading year began with Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book. Adler mentions (p. xi) that after the book became a best-seller, it was parodied by How to Read Two Books and, more seriously, How to Read a Page. So when I saw How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One, I was intrigued. With my usual marginalia noticeably absent, I must say the book was worth reading, but it is relatively easy enough to take in in one go. The book provides numerous examples of great sentences, including great beginning and ending sentences. (Dickens doesn't get a mention other than a suggestion that his were over-rated.) There are a number of exercises using various sentence types that are useful. Hemingway thought that if he could write just one good sentence, then the day was well-spent (A Moveable Feast, p. 22):I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, 'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.Fish doesn't go so far, but sees the sentence as a building block for all great writing. I particularly liked the idea that to be a writer, one has to like sentences, much like the painter who paints because she likes the smell of paint (p. 1). And the poem by Kenneth Koch really sums up this delightful little book: One day the Nouns were clustered in the street. An Adjective walked by, with her dark beautyThe Nouns were struck, moved, changed.The next day the Verb drove up, and created the Sentence. I would say that the major benefit of reading this work is that it brings the sentence back as the unit of work. I tend to focus more on paragraphs as corralled ideas, but overlook the importance of the humble sentence. Having read this work, I hope I can implement some of the clever suggestions and see the role of the humble sentence in framing not just stories, but also my academic work. ( )
  madepercy | Oct 10, 2018 |
The best part of this was the analysis of first setnences. It reads something like a law professor talks. I guess there is a reason for that. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
I read this book immediately after being disappointed by It was the Best of Sentences, It was the Worst of Sentences, so I may have been primed to have an overly enthusiastic reaction to a book which offered such a different take on the subject. To me, Fish's book was more like a philosophical work on how to approach sentences than a "how-to" book and (apologies if Fish is riffing on a philosophy espoused by others, this being my first exposure to it) I think Fish is really on to something.

As in any book on 'the sentence,' Fish parses sentences but he eschews the traditional literary terms, the parts of speech etc., and, instead, approaches the sentence as "a structure of logical relationships." What does this mean? Well, as I understood it, it means that, rather than analysing the sentence for the parts of speech and labelling those parts and checking them against a table of what is and isn't allowed (the traditional method,) Fish divides the sentence into logical segments and analyses each part, how each part relates to, and changes, the other parts and what meaning, as a whole, the words in the sentence actually communicate. The 'logical' segments I spoke of require only that you are fluent in the language the sentence is written in, you don't need to have studied literature ,nor know how to label all the parts of speech, to learn how to analyse a sentence for quality.

In short, where traditional methods focus on labelling and rules, Fish's method concentrates on the relationships between words and their effect upon each other and the reader (the content communicated.) Fish's method consistently reminded me of learning a new language; We can learn the rules and exceptions by rote, but we are far more likely to become fluent using an immersion approach - this is what Fish does with sentences.

Fish analyses many different types of sentences for us, by way of showing us how to do it ourselves, and we may not all agree with the sentences he chooses, but this is beside the point, they are simply samples used to show a method. Still, if we want him to tackle a favourite sentence, Fish asks that we email him (thus, bad ratings of the book based upon which sentences he chose are not only missing the point but betraying that they didn't read to Fish's request for alternatives.) Fish gives the reader no sense of "there, now you know everything you will ever need to know about sentences" at the end of this book, rather, he sends us on our way having provided us the tools required to spend our lives learning and improving our writing, or reading.

( )
  Darcy-Conroy | Sep 28, 2015 |
How to Write a Sentence is one of the most glorious books I have ever read. Fish's passion for words and writing--his own or the works of others--is evident in, appropriately, every sentence, whether written by this book's author or included as a model sentence upon which Fish's readers can base their own literary attempts. However, the very gloriousness of its language turns this book into something that cannot easily be dashed through on an airplane flight, or tossed off in a lazy hour at the beach. I found myself reading unexpectedly slowly, savouring the words and structure of each paragraph, tucking the book into the seat-back pocket between chapters to re-consider its contents before retrieving the volume, only to re-read the same pages over again. On a three-hour flight, I managed to read fewer than a hundred pages (this is probably only really shocking if you know me in person). Fish's ideas have lingered with me all week, and I find myself itching to practice his model sentences at odd times.

Everyone should read this book. If I am ever allowed to teach Freshman Composition, I would assign this book to my students in a heartbeat; I wish I could send a copy to every one of my former secondary-school students. It is at once inspiring and elegantly readable, the perfect companion for lovers of literature and aspiring writers all at once. How to Write a Sentence is a companion and a textbook simultaneously: Fish introduces his reader to books and sentences he loves (as if having a conversation) and then offers instructions for replicating the style and form of each example. Read this; assign this; practice following its guidelines; read it again.

Fish's slim little volume is as revolutionary and fresh for its time as Elements of Style was back in the early 1900s. Nearly a century later, How to Write a Sentence gives readers--and aspiring writers--fresh models and useful exercises that point out stylistic technique in concrete, practical ways. Read this book, but slowly. It is a delight.

(Original review: http://legereinterlitteras.blogspot.com/2013/01/stanley-fishs-sentence-style-bet...) ( )
  palaephata | Jun 21, 2015 |
An unapologetic potboiler, and probably not of very much practical use as a self-help book. But enjoyable enough as a virtuoso display of off-the-cuff textual criticism without a safety net of technical jargon.

Fish argues that we should see a sentence as a structure of logical semantic relationships between things rather than as a grammatical entity, an idea that he demonstrates in practice by taking a selection of famous and not-so-famous sentences from Great Writers and explaining how they convey meaning. Of course, Fish has been filleting the giants of Eng Lit for a living for half a century and is pretty good at it by now, so this is extremely well worth watching. Milton features heavily, as you would expect, but there's also a lot of Henry James, Joseph Conrad and Ford Maddox Ford, and the occasional venture into contemporaries like Philip Roth. Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf get a look in too. To his credit, Fish manages to hop across genres and centuries with remarkably little fuss: most of his examples need only a couple of lines of context to guide the reader along, and he manages almost entirely without resorting to the sort of technical terms that might scare beginners away. Fish isn't a Joseph Conrad or a Milton himself, of course: he's a university professor who has a lot of experience writing newspaper columns, so the text is fluent and presentable, but it doesn't pretend to be an example of what it is analysing.

The hypothetical self-helper who is following along with pen and paper is encouraged to try making up variants on these formulae ("It is a far, far, duller thing that I write now than I have ever written..."), but even Fish doesn't really seem to believe that this is going to happen. He mentions that it was his publisher who proposed the title of the book, and his wife the subtitle: that figures. As a "How to write..." book, I'm sure this must sell better than if it were marketed as a beginner's guide to close-reading of English prose, which is what it really is. ( )
  thorold | Oct 16, 2014 |
Viser 1-5 af 18 (næste | vis alle)
Stanley Fish is not a writer of this caliber. He is a fluent, sometimes a lively (for an academic), but finally an undistinguished writer. A self-advertised sophist, he is most at home in polemic. Sentence by sentence, this would-be connoisseur of sentences is insufficiently scrupulous. He often roams deep into cliché country. “You can talk the talk,” he writes, “but you can’t walk the walk.” Earlier he writes that “the very thought of putting pen to paper, an anachronism I find hard to let go of, is enough to bring on an anxiety attack.” An anachronism isn’t the same as a cliché, and pen to paper, as clichés go, is blue ribbon, and let go of it, gladly, Fish should have done. His diction, or word choice, is commonplace: those worn-out vogue words “focus,” “meaningful,” and “bottom line,” come to him all too readily. “But, far from being transparent and incisive,” he writes, “these declarations come wrapped in a fog; they seem to skate on their own surface and simply don’t go deep enough.” Take three metaphors, mix gently, sprinkle lightly with abstraction, and serve awkwardly. These infelicities are from Fish’s first twenty pages. Many more, to stay with my salad metaphor, are peppered throughout the book.


I seem to have written more than three thousand words without a single kind one for How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One. To remedy this, at least partially, let it be noted that, at 165 pages, index and acknowledgments and biographical note on the author included, it is a short book.
Fish’s aim is to offer a guide to sentence craft and appreciation that is both deeper and more democratic [than Strunk and White's]. What, at base, is a sentence? he asks, and then goes on to argue that the standard answer based in parts of speech and rules of grammar teaches students “nothing about how to write”. Instead, we should be examining the “logical relationships” within different sentence forms to see how they organise the world. His argument is that you can learn to write and later become a good writer by understanding and imitating these forms from many different styles.

... for those, and I would count myself among them, who fell in love with literature not by becoming enthralled to books they couldn’t put down but by discovering individual sentences whose rhythm and rhetoric was so compelling they couldn’t help but repeat them to anyone who would listen, it is a blessed replacement to that old Strunkian superego forever whispering in your ear – cut, cut, cut.
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Fish has always been an aficionado of language, marveling at the adeptness of finely crafted sentences. Here he offers both sentence craft and sentence pleasure, skills invaluable to any writer (or reader).

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