The Longest Sentence

James Joyce

James Joyce

The long sentence is making a modest comeback in contemporary fiction with examples in recent fiction by Spencer Gordon, whose collection Cosmo I reviewed recently for the Winnipeg Free Press, and in Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue which is the book on my night table.

I say comeback because, according to Wikipedia, James Joyce wrote  the longest sentence in published English fiction in his novel Ulysses first serialized between 1918 and 1920, then published in its entirety in 1922.  Molly Bloom’s famous soliloquy consists of two sentences. The first one is 11,282 words long, and the second is 12,931 words long. It is occasionally referred to as an example summing up the Modernist movement.

It may be a fine point, but authors of the 21st century where not the first to be attracted to the challenges of the long sentence, so well met by Spencer Gordon in his new collection, and Michael Chabon in his new novel. The long sentence was an element of Modernism, and employed successfully almost 100 years ago

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