A Gorgeous Sentence: James Woods Examines the Prose of Alan Hollinghurst

James Woods, in The New Yorker, highlights the writing talents of Allan Hollinghurst.  The article, “Sons and Lovers,” gives insight into Hollingshurst’s beautifully rendered prose.

Hollinghurst works quietly, like a poet, goading all the words in his sentences—nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs—into a stealthy equality. I mean something like this, from his novel “The Line of Beauty” (2004): “Above the trees and rooftops the dingy glare of the London sky faded upwards into weak violet heights.” We can suddenly see the twilit sky of a big city afresh, and the literary genius is obviously centered in the unexpected strength of the adjective “weak,” which brings alive the diminishing strata of the urban night sky, overpowered by the bright lights on the ground. The effect is paradoxical, because we usually associate heights not with weakness but with power or command. And the poetry lies not just in what the sentence paints but in how it sounds: there is something mysteriously lovely about the rhythm of “weak violet heights,” and the way the two adjectives turn into a plural noun that is really just another adjective; the sentence does indeed seem to drift away into the far distance.

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