Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sentenced to envy

I've never been very good at using emotions like envy and jealousy. I think it's my good Puritan roots that just make me too pragmatic and practical to waste energy on pipe dreams. Don't get me wrong - I feel envy and jealousy as much as the next person. I just don't tend to feel them about grandiose things; I'm a lot more modest when I expend those particular emotions.

Let me give you an example.

I go to a fabulous concert and see a wildly talented artist perform in front of thousands of adoring fans, who hoot and shout and stomp in appreciation, and I'm jealous. But I'm not jealous of the wildly talented artist, the recipient of the appreciative hoots, shouts, and stomps.

I'm jealous of the person who is hooting, shouting, and stomping in the front row.

I mean, let's face it: I could never be the wildly talented artist. I have neither the ability nor the inclination. It could never happen. It's wasted envy.

But that person in the front row? That could have been me.

The same thing happens with writing. In fact, it happened recently when I was reading the final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I got jealous of J.K. Rowling.

I wasn't jealous because she is the best-selling author of an outrageously popular seven-part series of novels that has sparked the interest and inspired the allegiance of children and adults around the world. That's simply too far removed from my own personal reality. I don't even write fiction. I have neither the ability nor the inclination to write a short story, never mind an internationally best-selling seven-part series of novels.

But I can write a great sentence.

I can. Not always, of course. But every now and then I can write a really great sentence. Some of them appear right here on this blog - I stop back now and then to visit them. And so it was that a single sentence in Book 7 - one really terrific, stop-reading-and-marvel-at-me sentence - sent my envy into overdrive.

Have you read Deathly Hallows? You have? Then you must know the sentence I'm talking about. It's right there on the top of page 236:

"Dawn seemed to follow midnight with indecent haste."

You know just what she means, don't you? You have had nights that felt exactly like that, and there are no other words that could capture the feeling quite the same way. It's a really, really great sentence.

I could have written that sentence. But I didn't.

I'm so jealous I could spit.


kristina said...

A friend used to read a certain sentence from "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and say, I'd give anything to have written that sentence-----it was too gorgeous, and too true.

Anonymous said...

Well you are a goodly type. As I whizz around the blogosphere, I often read things that make me green with envy. I see people write in different coloured inks. I would love to write my comments in green whenever I felt that feeling!

Club 166 said...

I'd just love to put together a blog post in less than 2 hours...


kristen spina said...

I hear you loud and clear on this one. And yes, it is a sentence to die for. Not a single wasted word. Sigh.

gretchen said...

My favorite books are full of folded-down pages to mark spots like this. I just love the way they sound and like to roll them around my head. I'll have to go home and find one tonight.

Rowling is so enviable because she seems to be a regular old woman/mom you might like to have coffee with.

MOM-NOS said...

That's funny, Gretchen. I knew that sentence was on page 236 because I had folded down the page.

No wonder I like you so much.

mumkeepingsane said...

I guessed 3 sentences from the book thinking you were going to mention one of them and I was right! It does seem quite perfect.

I am often jealous of people who can do little things...either things I know I can do well, or things I have done well in the past.

MOM-NOS said...

Oooo - mumkeepingsane, I'd love to hear the other two sentences!

Daisy said...

Isn't JK Rowling a genius with phrases? I love her Dumbledore quotes. He (through her pen) speaks the most wonderful quotables. ", let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure." Sigh.

Drama Mama said...

Sigh...Miss M refuses to read Harry Potter - yet. She must finish Lemony Snicket first, which means that I have to wait for her.

(And she's enjoying Lemony far too much to go quickly)

Soon I'll get the whole Harry Potter thing, I guess.

I'm so glad that kids are exposed to good writing these days - no more Judy Blume for them!

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean

Unknown said...

I was just admiring that sentence the other day!

Hah... its very, very good.

Anonymous said...

well hey i say go for it! it all begins with one sentence....then another...and another! if it helps at all i am envious of your beautiful site design.

Anonymous said...

That's funny, because I feel that way about YOU! I read your posts and find that you have a way of putting many of my thoughts into words.

I am NOT a good writer, but I thought of you the other day when a friend of mine told me I should write a book. We were discussing the many times that we are out with our autistic children and are faced with certain situations. She was saying that we should write a book to help parents have the right responses to questions from others, "Why is he crying like that?", "What is that noise he's making?", "Why does he think he is Charlie Brown?", or even "Why do you get to cut the line at Disney?". We were saying that we would love to have the "perfect" eloquent responses to explain our children and educate people. Even just the right responses when people ask what autism is or why he doesn't "seem" autistic.

So there's a request for you!!

neil said...

You have something else in your armoury - great post titles!

qchan said...

Actually, "sentences I wish I'd written" could make a nice discussion thread all its own. I'd love to see other examples.

I've had this line from Theodore Roethke's poem "I Knew A Woman" floating around in my head for a long time:

"I'm martyr to a motion not my own."

I love the flow of it, and the subtle internal rhyme. (It sounds even better when you read the whole thing ...)