Share beautiful passages of prose in your favorite fiction.

Some persons read fiction in the same way they walk through an art museum. The loveliness of the writing; a beautiful phrase is its own reward.

This thread is for people like that.

I’ll start with a passage from Andre Dubus’s “The Timing of Sin”:

Anybody else? Bueller?

*Sten was rather morosely preparing himself a solitary meal, trying to remind himself that the best revenge is living well. Yet another pastime he had sort of picked up from the Eternal Emperor.

His meal was, by description, a simple Earth sandwich. Its filling would be a rib-eye steak from a steer.

But it may have been the Ultimate Steak Sandwich.

Earlier that day, before the paperwork and Go Higher And Hither orders had a chance to consume him as usual, he’d cut diagonal slices in the three-centimeter piece of meat. The steak went into a marinade - one-third extra-virgin olive oil, two-thirds Guinness - the remarkable dark beer he had been introduced to just before his last face-to-face meeting with the Eternal Emperor - salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic.

Now it was ready for the charbroiler.

He took softened butter, and beat a teaspoon of dried parsley, a teaspoon of tarragon, a teaspoon of thyme, and a teaspoon of oregano into it. He spread the butter on a freshly baked soft roll, foil-wrapped the roll, and put the roll in to warm.

Next he sliced onions. A lot of onions. He sautéed them in butter and paprika. As they started to sizzle, he warmed, in a double broiler, a half liter of sour cream mixed with three tablespoons of horseradish.

Next he’d charbroil the steak just until it stopped moving, slice it on the diagonal, put the meat on the roll, onions on the meat, sour cream on the onions, and commit cholesterolicide.*

Empire’s End - Chris Bunch/Allan Cole
What? I’m hungry.

Mine is much shorter, and the last line oft’ quoted, but I think it’s a thing of beauty. I could write my whole life and never get a paragraph this perfect:

(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, of course)

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

I suppose “beautiful” can have many definitions, but in this case, with the passage I’m presenting, it means something that almost moves me to tears.

It’s from Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Two important characters in the book are looking at a series of statues. The younger man, Ben Caxton, is being taught by the older, Jubal Harshaw, how to really look at, and appreciate, art. They are looking at Rodin’s “Caryatid Who Has Fallen Under the Weight of her Stone.”

Harshaw says *“But she’s more than good art denouncing some very bad art;, she’s a symbol for every woman who has ever tried to shoulder a load that was too heavy for her–over half the female population of this planet, living and dead, I would guess. But not alone women–this symbol is sexless. It means every man and every woman who ever lived who sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude, whose courage wasn’t even noticed until the crumpled under their load. It’s courage, Ben, and victory.”


“Victory in defeat, there is none higher. She didn’t give up, Ben;, she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her. She’s a father going down to a dull office job while caner is painfully eating away his insides, so as to bring home one more pay check for the kids. She’s a twelve-year -old girl trying to mother her baby brothers and sister because Mama had to go to Heaven. She’s a switchboard operator sticking to her job while smoke is choking her and the fire is cutting off her escape. she’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t quite cut it but never quit.” *

I deliberately did not define the term in my OP. Eye of the beholder and all that.

Having said that … while I love the Stranger passage you quoted, I consciously eliminated it from consideration when thinking what I wanted to open the thread with. Beautiful isn’t quite the word I’d use to describe it; I’d call it eloquent.

But that’s just me.

I am looking forward to reading more posts in this thread. lovely idea for a thread. I have couple passages from “A River Runs Through It” I want to add ( and, yes, one from The Lord of the Rings") but am nowhere near the library or my books right now, darn it.

I understand what you are saying, Skald, and it’s just so hard to choose!:stuck_out_tongue:

If I chose another for sheer beauty there is this from The Song of Songs(Jewish Publication Society translation, 5747/1985)

"My beloved spoke thus to me, “Arise, my darling, My fair one, come away! For now the winter is past, The rains are over and gone. The blossoms have appeared in the land, The time of pruning has come; The song of the turtledove is heard in our land. The green figs form on the fig tree, The vines in blossom give off fragrance. Arise, my darling; My fair one, come away!”

I have a fond memory of lying naked on a motel bed with a young woman, reading that aloud. That was so thoughtful of the Guideons to put it there.

A couple that I particularly enjoy from Johnathon Stange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke:

And unrelated to the woman referenced above:

There are quite a few times that Susanna Clarke uses the descriptive words like that. It would never occur to me to do so but I really enjoyed the jarring visual.

The closing lines of The Great Gatsby:

NB: I’ve read that he coined the word “orgastic” as a conflation of “orgiastic” and “orgasmic.”

Damn that’s good and I haven’t read it in 30 years, must dig out a copy and reread.

The statue, if you haven’t seen it.

“Hot dog vendors had an image problem already without one of them passing out in front of a whorehouse.”

A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

A beautiful description of death! From The Lord of the Rings, in two places. “…the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

Be sure to get the uncut version, that’s what I quoted from. Although it isn’t to different in the shorter version.

From Billy Dead by Lisa Reardon…“It feels like you’re using me as a rest stop, like you’re killing time,” she says. “I want someone who loves me like I’m the end of the road.”

I could have picked almost any paragraph of his, really. IMO it’s hard to beat Bradbury’s prose for sheer beauty, the ability to capture the ineffable.

I’ve always loved this passage from Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:

I would think how words go straight up in a thin line, quick and harmless, and how terribly doing goes along the earth, clinging to it, so that after a while the two lines are too far apart for the same person to straddle from one to the other; and that sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words.

There’s just something about all those words that describe how words distance us from the reality of life that’s always really gotten to me.

Hard to go wrong with Tolkien. Here’s a wonderful passage about Minas Tirith, the great city of Men, from The Return of the King, Chapt. V, “The Steward and the King,” p. 947 in my edition:

"…the King passed through the flower-laden streets, and came to the Citadel, and entered in; and the banner of the Tree and the Stars was unfurled upon the topmost tower, and the reign of King Elessar began, of which many songs have told.

In his time the City was made more fair than it had ever been, even in the days of its first glory; and it was filled with trees and with fountains, and its gates were wrought of mithril and steel, and its streets were paved with white marble; and the Folk of the Mountain laboured in it, and the Folk of the Wood rejoiced to come there; and all was healed and made good, and the houses were filled with men and women and the laughter of children, and no window was blind nor any courtyard empty; and after the ending of the Third Age of the world into the new age it preserved the memory and the glory of the years that were gone."

© 1954 J.R.R. Tolkien et al., All rights reserved.