Sonia Saraiya
what kind of magpie keeps this blog?

writer on the internet and at @soniasaraiya

Amazing Sentences


in my craft of fiction class, we’re looking at sentences and paragraphs this week. These are some I’ve highlighted as favorites from contemporary fiction:

Amazing Sentences

Thirty Girls by Susan Minot:

Jane was sufficiently bewildered by what kind of person she was, so it was always arresting when someone, particularly a stranger, summed her up.

Forgotten Country, Catherine Chung

My mother did not want to go to America: this much I knew. I knew it by the way she became distracted and impatient with my sister, by the way she stopped tucking us into bed at night. I knew it from watching her feet, which began to shuffle after my father announced the move, as though they threw down invisible roots that needed to be pulled out with each step

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt:

Mrs. Barbour was from a society family with an old Dutch name, so cool and blonde and monotone that sometimes she seemed partially drained of blood. She was a masterpiece of composure; nothing ever ruffled her or made her upset, and though she was not beautiful her calmness had the magnetic pull of beauty—a stillness so powerful that the molecules realigned themselves around her when she came into a room…

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones:

“Silver” is what I called girls who were natural beauties but who also smoothed on a layer of pretty from a jar. It wasn’t just how they looked, it was how they were. The name came from a song my mother sang sometimes when she was getting dressed to go out somewhere special. She sang along with Aretha Franklin at the end: “Sail on, silver girl… Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way.

Zazen, Vanessa Veselka

I tried to map the cultural trends leading up to it but as I did they grew, interconnecting and weaving backwards and sideways out to everything. Next to the megalithic institutionalized shredding of people’s humanity, marked by tombstone malls and scabby hills, the Styrofoam gullets and flag-waving god-chatterers casting their votes for eternal paternity on the lap rapists - next to all of that, the intimacy between a terrorist and his target was almost a beautiful thing but I still couldn’t solve that moment when they did it anyway so I grabbed more paper and widened my field of vision

Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush:

One thing she knew and Ned did not, was that there is no permanent friendship between men, among men. Something goes wrong, somebody marries the wrong person, somebody advances too fast, somebody converts, somebody refuses good advice or bad advice, it didn’t matter. It went up in a flash, it went up in a flash like magnesium paper set on fire in a magic show. She thought, It’s not always great with women, either, but it can be. Women can have friends, it’s more personal, she thought. Although in the great design of things, women were getting to be more like men. There were more tough cookies around, and liars.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote

It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned.

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Besides, humility had always seemed to him a specious thing, invented for the comfort of others; you were praised for humility by people because you did not make them feel any more lacking than they already did.

The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner

People who are harder to love pose a challenge, and the challenge makes them easier to love. You’re driven to love them. People who want their love easy don’t really want love.

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

Children don’t know the meaning of yesterday, of the day before yesterday, or even of tomorrow, everything is this, now: the street is this, the doorway is this, the stairs are this, this is Mamma, this is Papa, this is the day, this the night. I was small and really my doll knew more than I did.

Come Together, Fall Apart, by Cristina Henriquez

Her brand of meanness was of the temperate variety. She threw little punches but they were never the sort to leave bruises.

We The Animals, Justin Torres

This is your heritage,’ he said, as if from this dance we could know about his own childhood, about the flavor and grit of tenement buildings in Spanish Harlem, and projects in Red Hook, and dance halls, and city parks, and about his own Paps, how he beat him, how he taught him to dance, as if we could hear Spanish in his movements, as if Puerto Rico was a man in a bathrobe, grabbing another beer from the fridge and raising it to drink, his head back, still dancing, still steeping and snapping perfectly in time.

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Danielle Evans

When people don’t hide things, it means they don’t care enough to be afraid of losing you.

Savages, Don Winslow

If you let people believe that you are weak, sooner or later you’re going to have to kill them.

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich

Women don’t realize how much store men set on the regularity of their habits. We absorb their comings and goings into our bodies, their rhythms into our bones.

The Lover, Marguerite Duras

Suddenly, all at once, she knows, knows that he doesn’t understand her, that he never will, that he lacks the power to understand such perverseness. And that he can never move fast enough to catch her. It’s up to her to know. And she does. Because of his ignorance she suddenly knows: she was attracted to him already on the ferry. She was attracted to him. It depended on her alone.

Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward

We crawled through time like roaches through the linings of walls, the neglected spaces and hours, foolishly happy that we were still alive even as we did everything to die.”

May We Be Forgiven, A.M. Homes

We retreat back to the sofa and watch more television, and I find myself thinking that I now understand what the perfect use for TV is—it gives people who have nothing in common something they can do together and talk about: it gives us familiar territory. I have a new respect for what George used to do, how television binds us as Americans—we are what we watch.

A Sport and a Pastime, James Salter

Certain things I remember exactly as they were. They are merely discolored a bit by time, like coins in the pocket of a forgotten suit. Most of the details, though, have long since been transformed or rearranged to bring others of them forward. Some, in fact, are obviously counterfeit; they are no less important. One alters the past to form the future

The Wife, Meg Wolitzer

Everyone needs a wife; even wives need wives. Wives tend, they hover. Their ears are twin sensitive instruments, satellites picking up the slightest scrape of dissatisfaction. Wives bring broth, we bring paper clips, we bring ourselves and our pliant, warm bodies. We know just what to say to the men who for some reason have a great deal of trouble taking consistent care of themselves or anyone else. “Listen,” we say. “Everything will be okay.” And then, as if our lives depend on it, we make sure it is.”

The Brutal Language of Love, Alicia Erian

Love was never easy, she knew. And if it was, it wasn’t love—friendship maybe, but not love. What she felt for Leonard was something limp and slack. It had no charge, no current running through it to hurt her if she wasn’t careful. The reality was, you only knew you were loved if you were left and returned to, if you were ignored and then craved. Occasionally you would be seen for slightly less than the sum of your parts, and that was love, too. Love announced itself with a sting, not a pat. If love was love, it was urgent and ripe and carried with it the faint odor of humiliation, so that there was always something to be made up for later, some apology in the works. Love was never clean, never quiet, never polite. Love rarely did what you asked it to, let alone what you dreamed it might do, and it most certainly did not know that your favorite color was blue.

Dare Me, Megan Abbott

I guess I’d been waiting forever, my palm raised. Waiting for someone to take my girl body and turn it out, steel me from the inside, make things matter for me, like never before.

Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson

I’m sure we were all feeling blessed on this ferryboat among the humps of very green—in the sunlight almost coolly burning, like phosphorus—islands, and the water of inlets winking in the sincere light of day, under a sky as blue and brainless as the love of God, despite the smell, the slight, dreamy suffocation, of some kind of petroleum-based compound used to seal the deck’s seams.” 

Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates

Then the fight went out of control. It quivered their arms and legs and wrenched their faces into shapes of hatred, it urged them harder and deeper into each other’s weakest points, showing them cunning ways around each other’s strongholds and quick chances to switch tactics, feint, and strike again. In the space of a gasp for breath it sent their memories racing back over the years for old weapons to rip the scabs off old wounds; it went on and on.

Airships, Barry Hannah

Jane truly liked to talk to fat and old guys best of all. She didn’t ever converse much with young men. Her ideal of a conversation was when sex was nowhere near it at all. 

Posted at 8:34 pm on Tuesday, September 2, 2014 with 325 notes

As many of you know, two Sundays ago the comments on my review of The Leftovers had to be shut down, after some commenters hijacked the conversation to make it about me. They disseminated a photoshopped image that purported to be screenshots of my own statements. According to them this proved that I was a racist, and many were unequivocal and specific in calling for my firing.

I handled this badly. I was blindsided by the comments and was defensive in response, and that escalated the tone of the thread, which led to its shutdown. I shouldn’t have responded at all, but I was upset enough that I was not thinking clearly. I’m sorry to have contributed to derailing a conversation that should have been about the show.

Over the course of the following week, as I discussed with my superiors at The A.V. Club how to handle the situation, we discovered a few salient points: One, multiple statements on that photoshopped image are not things I said. (The timestamps are left off for a reason.) Two, that image was also posted on an anonymous forum in an attempt to bait the users there. I’m not linking to that thread at the request of my editors, but here is a screenshot.

​I am not the person in that image—either because the statements are not mine or because they’ve been stripped of all context. I want my readers and colleagues on the Internet to know that.

See you this Sunday for the finale review, at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Posted at 6:53 pm on Tuesday, September 2, 2014 with 32 notes
On Writing While Female, Race, and The Commenters


About a week ago, my A.V. Club editor and friend Sonia got a world of shit in the comments section of a review, and it got shut down. It wasn’t the first time the comments got nasty towards her, or even the third, or the fifth…at this point, getting a world of shit is just part of her reviewing…

Caroline is a good writer and a good friend.
Posted at 9:40 pm on Monday, September 1, 2014 with 63 notes

She Is Not Your Nude Photo


Sonia Saraiya on the ever-growing nude photo leak:

Read More

This is what I did today.

Posted at 9:39 pm on Monday, September 1, 2014 with 72 notes

“The “feminine” woman is forever static and childlike. She is like the ballerina in an old-fashioned music box, her unchanging features tiny and girlish, her voice tinkly, her body stuck on a pin, rotating in a spiral that will never grow.” — Susan Faludi, Backlash


“The “feminine” woman is forever static and childlike. She is like the ballerina in an old-fashioned music box, her unchanging features tiny and girlish, her voice tinkly, her body stuck on a pin, rotating in a spiral that will never grow.”
— Susan Faludi, Backlash

Posted at 2:50 pm on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 with 363 notes
"Being born a woman is an awful tragedy. Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night."

Sylvia Plath

fuck every single time that last line gets quoted without the rest

(via sex-positive-bitches)

Posted at 4:45 am on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 with 174,345 notes

Theda Bara as priestress in The Soul of Buddha, 1918. A silent movie considered lost now.

whoa. Is she praying? Meditating?


Theda Bara as priestress in The Soul of Buddha, 1918. A silent movie considered lost now.

whoa. Is she praying? Meditating?

Posted at 4:40 am on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 with 195 notes
Posted at 4:39 am on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 with 233,726 notes
I am Ophelia. She who the river could not hold. […] I set fire to my prison. I throw my clothes into the fire. I dig the clock which was my heart out of my breast. I go onto the street, clothed in my blood."

Heiner Müller, Hamletmachine (via dashconballpit)

Posted at 4:34 am on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 with 3,244 notes

The thing about this is that sculptures like these in art history were for the male gaze. Photoshop a phone to it and suddenly she’s seen as vain and conceited. That’s why I’m 100% for selfie culture because apparently men can gawk at women but when we realize how beautiful we are we’re suddenly full of ourselves…


The thing about this is that sculptures like these in art history were for the male gaze. Photoshop a phone to it and suddenly she’s seen as vain and conceited. That’s why I’m 100% for selfie culture because apparently men can gawk at women but when we realize how beautiful we are we’re suddenly full of ourselves…

Posted at 4:27 am on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 with 84,826 notes
"There is an injunction among users of social media that one should not pay attention to online detractors. There is even a Twitter account, @AvoidComments, which issues monitory statements: “You wouldn’t listen to someone named Bonerman26 in real life. Don’t read the comments.” Beard argues, instead, that comments sections expose attitudes that have long remained concealed in places like locker rooms and bars. Bonerman26 exists; his vileness should be contended with."

Troll Slayer: Mary Beard Takes On Her Sexist Detractors - The New Yorker (via kelsium)

Bonerman26 exists; his vileness should be contended with.

(via turnabout)

Reblogging myself because I actually sat down and read this article, which is a profile of Mary Beard, a classicist at Cambridge and public intellectual, and it’s fantastic. 

(via turnabout)

Posted at 4:26 am on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 with 95 notes


Iggy Azalea and canned whole chicken

Posted at 7:39 pm on Saturday, August 23, 2014 with 22,908 notes
Oh my God YES

Oh my God YES

Posted at 4:04 pm on Saturday, August 23, 2014 with 832 notes

Female PKK Fighters in Kirkuk


Female PKK Fighters in Kirkuk

Posted at 3:56 pm on Saturday, August 23, 2014 with 275 notes
Dino discounts


GUEST: Do you have discount tickets here for the Natural History Museum?
CONCIERGE: The tickets we have here are full price, but the museum is a suggested donation. If you go directly to the museum, you can pay whatever you like.
GUEST: So there’s no discounts?
CONCIERGE: Well there are a few ways…

Posted at 12:37 am on Saturday, August 23, 2014 with 332 notes