Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ray Bradbury: "A Sound of Thunder"

From SUNfiltered
A moment of silence, please.  This summer, much admired author Ray Bradbury died.  His birthday was exactly one week ago, August 22, and he would have been 92.  Stephen King, on his website, wrote on the day of Bradbury's death: "Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories.  One off the latter was called 'A Sound of Thunder.'  The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant's footsteps fading away.  But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty."

You'll notice the influence of "A Sound of Thunder" on this blog, and my thoughts: the sign that we read in the beginning is not the same one we read in the end, and it is because of the actions of the reader.  

I'm struck by the way his opening sentence shows us what we need to know.  I'm struck by the rhythm he uses in the short paragraph that starts, "First a day and then a night and then a day and then a night," suggesting what it might be like to time travel.  I'm struck by a later sentence that communicates, in its syntactical repetition, the complication of the subject of time and influence: "Eckels glanced across the vast office at a mass and tangle, a snaking and humming of wires and steel boxes, at an aurora that flickered now orange, now silver, now blue."  Finally, I'm struck by the fact that in this story, Bradbury takes us first into the future and then into the past, showing how our choices affect our world.  It's thunderous, a matter of life and death.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Stanley Fish
John Donne
One of the interesting books I've read recently is called How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish, who happens to be the professor who most inspired me as an undergraduate.  In this book, my former professor states, "A sentence is, in John Donne's words, 'a little world made cunningly.'"  Fish hopes that every reader will "come to share the delight and awe I feel when reading [great] sentences" and also that "you will be able to write some fine, if not great, sentences yourself."  Toward the end of the book, he states, again quoting Donne: "Time is an artificial breach in eternity (Donne calls it 'this imaginary half-nothing'), an imperfection that springs from the nature of an imperfect, finite, transitory creature.  The same imperfection and finitude require from us the writing of sentences (as opposed to the instantaneous knowledge of everything) [...]."

Little worlds made cunningly!  If we are lucky, this phrase describes our stories, our classrooms, our lives.  Let us proceed into the remaining four months of 2012 with the pledge to be cunning, and to work on our sentences.