Friday, April 11, 2008

First Paragraphs: Stories from The New Yorker. SIX

I'm beginning to sniff where I'm going with this. The internal architecture of the story. I'm committed--will have to review each of these stories one way or another. We can see the need in this story to treat the "paragraph" with a degree of flexibility, to give some thought to how we define it. I can see how dialog is going to be tricky, though here, the brief quoted lines fit well into the context of a larger unit if we use Christensen's rule ("A New Rhetoric," Francis Christensen, Bonniejean Christensen. Harper and Row, New York, 1976)

Every sentence in a paragraph will be either directly subordinate to the sentence it follows, or coordinate with any sentence above it in the paragraph. A sentence that breaks this pattern may serve as transition to the next paragraph, or is perhaps parenthetic, or has begun to drift and is out of place.

Granted, the Christensen formula is most usefully applied to exposition and argument. In fiction, we can expect the pattern will often be broken, but never without consequence to how we read it. In any case, we should try to identify the paragraph as a rhetorical structure, not by it's punctuation, which is often arbitrary, or rhythmic, rather than structural. In "The Great Experiment," the first seven paragraphs form a coherent, rhetorical unit. The first quoted line serves as an epigraph. "If you're so smart, how come you're not rich?" To read it as more intimately bound to the story it precedes, one might hear it perhaps, as interior monolog: an unconscious, or semi-conscious conditioning thought of the protagonist, Kendall, gazing out of the window of this Lake Shore Drive Penthouse.

The third indented unit poses no problem; clearly subordinate, adding illustrative detail to the preceding description The same for the forth, where the sentence is isolated for emphasis and contrast.

The fifth typographical paragraph (as opposed to the real thing) is coordinate, if not in structure, in sense--a kind of displaced coordinate sentence, or rather, coordinate with an identical ellipsis: a repetition of the sentence omitted before: " The view straight ahead was of water... "

The Post-it sentence: again, isolation for emphasis.

As it was printed, these seven typographical paragraphs do form a unit. (click on the link)

,The Great Experiment

The New Yorker, March 31, 2008

“If you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich?”

It was the city that wanted to know. Chicago, refulgent in early-evening, late-capitalist light. Kendall was in a penthouse apartment (not his) of an all-cash building on Lake Shore Drive. The view straight ahead was of water, eighteen floors below. But if you pressed your face to the glass, as Kendall was doing, you could see the biscuit-colored beach running down to Navy Pier, where they were just now lighting the Ferris wheel.

The gray Gothic stone of the Tribune Tower, the black steel of the Mies building just next door—these weren’t the colors of the new Chicago. Developers were listening to Danish architects who were listening to nature, and so the latest condominium towers were all going organic. They had light-green façades and undulating rooflines, like blades of grass bending in the wind.

There had been a prairie here once. The condos told you so.

Kendall was gazing at the luxury buildings and thinking about the people who lived in them (not him) and wondering what they knew that he didn’t. He shifted his forehead against the glass and heard paper crinkling. A yellow Post-it was stuck to his forehead. Piasecki must have come in while Kendall was napping at his desk and left it there.

The Post-it said: “Think about it.”

Kendall crumpled it up and threw it in the wastebasket. Then he went back to staring out the window at the glittering Gold Coast.

Words: 247
Sentences: 14 17.64 wps avg.
Suggest story to come, heavy on sociological/ economic setting, status... from a POV above the fray...
Narrative Time: present
Voice: limited third person
Language: objective, reminiscent, conventional exposition

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