You know how you’re taught to write sentences that are not too long, so the reader doesn’t get lost in them? Well, that’s not always the way we talk! Some people just string one sentence into another, creating free associations without putting a period in between, barely taking time to breathe. This is what I am exploring in my novel, The Music of Us. Natasha is a vibrant teenager who has more to say than time to say it:
I asked Natasha if she got my photograph, the one I had sent earlier that month. It showed me among others in a group of Marines, all of us dressed in uniforms, looking exactly alike.
She said yes, and was I the Marine second from the left, squatting, and in return I should expect a photograph of hers, which I’d better treat with extreme care, not the way I had treated her first envelope, which meant placing it in a dry, safe place, preferably close to my heart, because this is the earliest picture she had with her papa, so it was dear to her, and she’s giving it to me as a special gift, and on an entirely different note, what would I say if she told me that this summer she plans to take some time off from performances, which would give us an opportunity to meet, and even if her Mama would object to this idea, because she protects her only daughter from dates with men, and with soldiers in particular, because in her opinion they’re good-for-nothing low-lives who sleep who-knows-where with God-knows-who, she, Natasha, would love to see me if—and that’s a big if—I could arrange a visit.
Here is another example, with old Uncle Shmeel who is an old bachelor so eager for a conversation that he can’t stop talking:
I raised my hand for a farewell handshake, as I had to catch the last train out of town, but according to Uncle Shmeel, the conversation had only begun, so why rush it?
And without losing a beat he started telling me, between one momentous blow and another, that thirty years after it was written, this rhythm was used for the letter V in Morse code, and therefore it would surely come to represent the notion of victory, thanks in part to the BBC, because since the beginning of this war it had started to preface its broadcasts with those four notes, played on drums, but if you would ask him—which for some reason, no one cared to do—he could give it more punch, not only because the clarinet had the largest ranges of pitch of all musical instruments but also because no other Kleismer could hope to come close to the way he played it, which might sound like bragging but really, it wasn’t.
You can hear it for yourself, can’t you? Dit-dit-dit-dah!
At this point Uncle Shmeel smoothed his hair over his bald spot and took a long, deep breath, which allowed him to go on explaining that at any rate, this new interpretation of the symphony would have surprised the composer himself, as did the other, more common interpretation, which was based on the rumor that he, Beethoven, had pointed to the beginning of the first movement and said, “Thus fate knocks at the door.”
Fascinating as that might have sounded it was completely wrong, nothing more than a fancy myth, but no one but Beethoven could have refuted it, which he had neglected to do, perhaps on account of being deaf, or mad, or both. And the truth was entirely different, you see, and much plainer. It was not the idea of fate that had inspired him, nor was it Morse code, rather it was the song of a yellow-hammer bird, which he had heard—penetrating, somehow, the heavy silence in his ears—while walking in Prater park in Vienna, which had been free to the public thanks to a declaration, a regal decree dating back to 1766 by Emperor Joseph II. And to make a short story long, the conclusion—dit-dit-dit-dah!—the conclusion is this: when two ideas compete for popular attention, fate would always get the upper hand, especially when its rival is merely a songbird.