Sentences bring Small Joys

Last Call

The New York Times contributing opinion writer Frank Bruni has an insightful weekly newsletter that offers his thoughts on politics, life and “matters of national importance.”

Of the highest importance — and often most anticipated —are updates on his dog, Regan.

It’s an enjoyable read. But my favorite part of the newsletter is his “For the Love of Sentences” feature.

Bruni publishes witty, biting, sarcastic and just plain fantastic sentences from writers from publications throughout the country.

There’s great satisfaction in scrolling through the selections, reading a captivating or humorous line and laughing out loud or nodding in appreciation of the prose.

The selections never disappoint. The wonderful aspect of Bruni’s newsletter is that he invites readers to nominate their favorite wonders of writing.

The submissions come from all over: Ottawa, Canada, Brooklyn, N.Y., Seattle, Wash., Charlotte, N.C., Thessaloniki, Greece, Fairbanks, Alaska, Perugia, Italy.

Recently I was pleased to see nominations from familiar places: Hilton Head Island and Bluffton.

Earlier this year a Hilton Head resident nominated a passage from Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe who reflected on quarterback Tom Brady’s tenure: “The 21st century is the High Renaissance of Boston sports, and Brady was our Michelangelo.”

And I was pleased this summer to see a Bluffton resident had passed Bruni’s muster with this submission in The Times from A.O. Scott, who reviewed the movie “Elvis.” He wrote about Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker: “He’s a self-invented man, an arriviste on the American scene, a ‘mister nobody from nowhere’ trading in the unstable currencies of wishing and seeming.”

The newsletter, which is for The Times subscribers, inspired me to recall some of my favorite sentences — from novels to journalism, there’s always a sentence or paragraph that grabs my attention and requires a second or third reading.

I could fill this column with an endless list of sentences from accomplished novelist Don DeLillo, but here are two.

From his novel, “Point Omega”: “He had a good vocabulary, except when he was talking to someone.”

And from “Underworld”: “The game doesn’t change the way you sleep or wash your face or chew your food. It changes nothing but your life.”

I’m smiling as I type those words.

Just recently I discovered John Hopkins (The Times of London) and his wonderful description of golfer Tom Watson: “Watching Watson in an Open is like rounding a corner in Verona and coming upon Romeo and Juliet stealing a kiss.”

How great is that?

How about this one in June from Kevin Fisher-Paulson of The San Francisco Chronicle: “Parenting really is a heartache business. At the end of the day, there is no end of the day.”

Here’s Susan Orlean in her nonfiction work, “The Library Book.”: “Destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never lived.”

There’s a fantastic anecdote writer Joe Posnanski tells about Buck O’Neil, the former player and indefatigable ambassador for the Negro Leagues.

To summarize a long, but wonderful story, Posnanski was spending a long day in New York with O’Neil when suddenly he couldn’t find him.

But then he turned and spotted O’Neil, 93 at the time, standing in a hotel courtyard talking to a woman who wore a stunning red dress.

She was certainly a stranger, but O’Neil laughed with her and hugged her as if they were best friends.

Later, he offered this bit of advice: “Son, in this life, you don’t ever walk by a red dress.”

It’s a terrific reminder to always appreciate the small joyous moments in life, like discovering an exquisite sentence that elicits a smile and instantly brightens your day.