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Ken Honeywell

Ken Honeywell
Location
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Birthday
March 20
Title
Partner
Company
Well Done Marketing
Bio
I'm in love with my wife; a writer and producer living in Indianapolis; partner at Well Done Marketing; founder of Tonic Ball, a benefit concert that's become one of the city's favorite annual events; co-founder of Second Story, a creative writing program for kids; a vegetarian; lead singer of Yoko Moment; a life-long New York Mets fan; a sucker for waltz time; crazy about Pernice Brothers; etc.

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JUNE 25, 2010 11:07AM

The Most Beautiful Paragraph In The English Language

Rate: 7 Flag

John Cheever, the Bard of Ossining 

On my other blog today, I answered a question from the lovely and talented rita shibr. The title of my post was (and still is): So It Was Cancer, Part 76: In Which A Reverse Cheever Is Dreamt. Rita wanted to know what I meant by "reverse Cheever."

I said that it was a play on a famous paragraph at the end of John Cheever's "Goodbye, My Brother." The story was published in The New Yorker on August 21, 1951. It's a classic. One of my favorite stories by one of my favorite authors.

I typed out the paragraph in my comment. But it occurred to me that too few people would experience it there. So...behold the greatness of John Cheever:

"Oh, what can you do with a man like that? What can you do? How can you dissuade his eye in a crowd from seeking out the cheek with acne, the infirm hand; how can you teach him to respond to the inestimable greatness of the race, the harsh surface beauty of life; how can you put his finger for him on the obdurate truths before which fear and horror are powerless? The sea that morning was iridescent and dark. My wife and my sister were swimming--Diana and Helen--and I saw their uncovered heads, black and gold in the dark water. I saw them come out and I saw that they were naked, unshy, beautiful, and full of grace, and I watched the naked women walk out of the sea."

Is it the greatest, most beautiful paragraph in English literature? I invite your nominations.

Or you can just save yourself the trouble and concur. 

Picture nicked from this most excellent blog

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Comments

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Well, I wondered the same thing as rita. so, I'm glad she asked. Now I know. don't know that I'm knowledgeable enough to concur but now I am that much more knowledgeable now. Thanks Ken
I'll just concur, as well . . . and thank you for bringing that paragraph to our attention!
Hey, all. Over at Facebook, my friend Lou Perry nominates the last paragraph of James Joyce's "The Dead":

"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

Hmm. Frank Indiana does like his Michael Furey...
A nomination from my friend Liz Joss: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, from "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings":

"On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea, because the newborn child had a temperature all night and they thought it was due to the stench. The world had been sad since Tuesday. Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish. The light was so weak at noon that when Pelayo was coming back to the house after throwing away the crabs, it was hard for him to see what it was that was moving and groaning in the rear of the courtyard. He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn't get up, impeded by his enormous wings."

Yes, it was written in Spanish. I'm allowing it. Game on.