Genre Fiction at Its Best

So Myers, in the ages-old crusty article I linked to a few days ago, picked the nits off various passages from literary fiction, but didn’t cite the best examples of any genre fiction to support his argument that it’s just as good. Whine!

Now, I’m not near any of my books at the moment, but, I can recall a few passages that are marvelous from genre fic. I’ll have to transcribe when I’m nearer to my bookshelf and a keyboard.

But- what about you?

What’s your favorite excerpt from any recent genre fiction (and not just romance)? Please share, as a sample of “damn fine genre writing!”

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Janine says:

    Most of these are romances, because that’s a lot of what I read:

    Here are a few (the more recent ones) that I quoted in my blog post on style at Dear Author:

    “She vanished into the twilight, a slight figure soon devoured by shadows and the restless flicker of the torches the stable boys were embedding in precise intervals along the drive. Kit looked back at Malbroke’s mansion, at the warm golden windows and colored drapery, the ornate plastered ceiling of the ballroom visible behind glass like distant icing on a wedding cake.”

    – Shana Abé, The Smoke Thief

    “He awaited them in the drawing room, dressed with old fashioned formality: knee breeches and an unadorned tailcoat of black silk. That appeared to exhaust his fund of conventional behavior. He barely looked at them, except for a swift, potent glance when Folie opened the door. There was something faintly startled in it, as if he had forgotten they were coming. Without delay for small talk or an announcement from a servant, he merely made a taut bow and indicated the dining room doors.”

    – Laura Kinsale, My Sweet Folly

    “The roses and the lilac, violets and lemon verbena shed their fragrance more intensely after dark, the sweet air of the English country night seeming to glimmer with benign spirits. Mary could feel her parents’ presence; it seemed to her that Arthur Grandin had added the warm light of his memory. There were a few more restless shades abroad as well: she shook her head at the one who stuck a sugary yellow tongue at her. When she was sure that Jessica was looking the other way, she stuck her own tongue back at the little imp – who giggled silently and flickered off toward the forest.”

    – Pam Rosenthal, The Slightest Provocation

    “But she could still feel the sea inside her stomach, and color and movement and noise came at her in waves: men swarming to unload the ship, the early morning sun ricocheting hard between smooth sea and blue sky, gulls wheeling in arcs of silver and white. No clouds floated above to cut the glare or soften the heat. Sylvie took her first deep breath of truly English air. It was hot and clotted with dock odors, and made matters inside her stomach worse instead of better.”

    – Julie Anne Long, Ways to be Wicked

    And here are a couple that are even more recent (as in, these books aren’t even out yet)

    “She sniffled, rubbed her nose against his shirt, and raised her head to kiss him.  ‘And you’re not leaving,’ she said. ‘Promise me.’

    It was as if she had asked him to promise to keep breathing, to notice sunshine, to permit the spinning of the earth.  What choice did he have?  Even if he left her, she would be camped in his heart, an insistent and willful presence.  She would match her strides to his on any journey he ever took; she would lie beside him on any bed.

    ‘Amalie,’ he said, ‘that’s the easiest promise I’ve ever had to make.’”

    - Sharon Shinn, Reader and Raelynx

    “London,
    May 8, 1893.

    Only one kind of marriage ever bore the haut ton’s stamp of approval. Happy marriages were considered vulgar, as it was common knowledge that matrimonial happiness rarely kept longer than a well-boiled Christmas pudding.

    Unhappy marriages were, of course, even more vulgar, on par with Frau Von Teese’s special contraption that spanked forty bottoms at once: everyone knew about it, and half of the ton had experienced it firsthand.

    No, the only kind of marriage that held up to life’s vicissitudes was the courteous marriage. And it was widely recognized that Lord and Lady Tremaine had the most courteous marriage of them all.”

    - Sherry Thomas, Private Arrangements

  2. 2
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Um, every word Laura Kinsale’s ever written?

    Here’s something I posted in my LJ from Loretta Chase’s Mr. Impossible:

    “Her mouth left his to make heat trails over his face and down his neck. Meanwhile her hands stoked down over his chest under his shirt. There was no hesitation, no unsureness: he was hers for the taking, and she knew it. He fell back against the wall, to brace himself, because she made him weak-kneed and because he wanted everything at once: he had to have her then and there that instant, yet he didn’t want to move, to do anything to interrupt the sensations coursing through him. He had no names for what he felt. He might be dying, for all he knew. The pleasure was beyond anything. Let it kill him.

    “She was welcome to kill him with heat and pleasure or torture him. So long as she wanted him, she could take him any way she liked. He was strong; he could bear whatever she did to him, and happily, too. But he wanted her, too, and he couldn’t wait forever.”

    Just a passage that I love for a whole bunch of reasons.

    I’d also add, most of Nora Roberts’ descriptions.  Usually, I skim descriptions of landscape or houses and such—can’t be bothered, give me the story, dammit.  But I love hers.  She’s got a great way with metaphors.

  3. 3
    Marta Acosta says:

    “Because,” he said, “I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you—especially when you are near me, as now:  it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.  And if …two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.  As for you,—you’d forget me.” Mr. Rocester in JANE EYRE

    And here is Raymond Chandler, a literary genre writer, defining literature:  “When a book, any sort of book, reaches a certain intensity of artistic performance it becomes literature. That intensity may be a matter of style, situation, character, emotional tone, or idea, or half a dozen other things. It may also be a perfection of control over the movement of a story similar to the control a great pitcher has over the ball.”

    From Chandler’s “Red Wind”:  “There was a desert winf blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your sking itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

  4. 4
    dakiwiboid says:

    This passage hit home for me, though it doesn’t seem quite as polished on the surface as the examples shown above:

    Do you remember, Madame Parr, in The Wooden Daughter, when the old alchemist says everyone has one thing they can’t think straight about?”
    “Yes,” I said, and quoted: “It is a rose planted in your heart, and as its thorns tear you, so does it thrive and flower.”

    It’s from Sarah Monette’s latest, The Mirador.

  5. 5
    Miranda says:

    From Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold:

    The Father of Winter (one of the gods) speaks to Ista, the heroine:

    “All gods attend on all battlefields. What parents would not wait as anxiously by their door, looking again and again up the road, when their child was due home from a long and dangerous journey?”

    Later, Ista speaks to a cursed man riding to his inevitable death. It means more when you know that the dying man was a (literal) bastard, who spent his life hoping to be recognized by his father.

    “Your Father calls you to his court. You need not pack; you go garbed in glory as you stand. He waits eagerly by His palace doors to welcome you, and has prepared a place at His high table by his side, in the company of hte great-souled, honored, and best beloved.”

  6. 6
    glinda says:

    Firelight leaking through the window sparkled on shimmering rain, like an infinity of gold and blood. The rain fell through fog, and in the darkness the fog coalesced, until it seemed to Renfield that the forms of three women hung in the air outside the window, their pale dresses and their long hair drifting about them like seaweed beneath the sea. The young man at the window saw them—Renfield heard the intake of his breath—but said nothing. Only gazed, like a man hypnotized or under a spell.

    Two were dark, the third, luminously fair. The stretched out their arms to the prison, and it was the fair one who spoke, in a voice like crystal tapped with a silver spoon . . . Renfield noted with interest that the language she spoke was the sweetly musical German of the south.

    He thought wonderingly, They are the Valkyries, just as in the opera. And in his heart the music of Wagner, god-genius of Bayreuth, stirred like the breathing of the Earth.

    They are the Choosers of the Slain. The ones who lay their hands upon the men who will die.

    —From “Renfield – Slave of Dracula” by Barbara Hambly

  7. 7
    Cat Marsters says:

    Well.  Anything by Terry Pratchett (does he still count as genre fiction now?  Still filed back there in the Fantasy/Sci-fi section with all the Star Trek novels…).  Here’s one off the top of my head from Maskerade:

    “Opera’s what you spend money on.”
    “But…what do you get out of it?”
    “You get opera.  You put money in, you see, and opera comes out,” Salzella said wearily.

    Which is true of so many things!  And in the same vein, also pretty much anything by Jenny Crusie.  From Welcome To Temptation, which I swear to God I’d tell people I wrote if I thought I could get away with it: 

    “Hi, I’m Phin Tucker, and I’m inside you.  I know how these things slip your mind.”

  8. 8

    I am hating the Engine.
    Yes, of course I know that it is the miracle of our century, that no man, and especially no woman, now suffers from deprivation as they have done from the dawn of history.  It certainly was a barbarian thing, to leave the satisfaction of an instinct so vital to the chance clumsiness of mutual attraction or purely subjective emotions, or to deny it, perhaps, to those who need it most.  The Engine takes care of all that.
    Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Engine. (science fiction)

    “I think they were the sacrifice.  God always asks for a sacrifice.  His hands are bloody with it.”
    Stephen King: The Stand. (horror)

    But she knew she would do nothing.  Her fear was gone.  In its place was a huge flat emptiness with voices crying of death faintly in its distances.  All she had heard of the mothers of the Servants echoed in those cries.  They gave you drugs so that you had as many babies as possible.  The babies were taken away surgically.  After that you were never heard of again.
    The portal yawned in front of her.  She picked up the bags and followed the two Reigners through.
    Diana Wynne Jones: Hexwood. (YA fantasy)

    The bay was small and sheltered, a sickle of pure white sand holding back the aquamarine sea, and held in its turn by the towering backdrop of cliff and pine and golden-green trees.  My path led me steeply down past a knot of young oaks, straight onto the sand.  I changed quickly in a sheltered corner, and walked out into the white blaze of the sun.
    Mary Stewart: This Rough Magic (romantic suspense)

    Their hearts were very light as they entered into the firelight and warmth under that roof; and Yarrow ran to meet them, crying with joy.
    Ursula le Guin: A Wizard of Earthsea (fantasy)

  9. 9
    Shaunee says:

    From Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.  An African-American author, not genre, but goddamn could this woman write her ass off.

    Janie, our heroine, has been spending every minute she could steal under a pear tree.  She is a teenager becoming aware of herself as sexual being in the following scene.  This the most beautiful masturbation scene I’ve ever read.

    “She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her.  She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight.  So this was marriage!  She had been summoned to behold a revelation.  Then Janie felt a pain remoreseless sweet that left her limp and languid.”

    More relevantly, from Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Cary.  A very young Phedre has discovered that for her, pain truly equals pleasure.

    “The spray of anemones with which Brother Louvel had gifted me had slipped into disarray, and I drew out the pin to fix them.  It was a long, sharp pin, exceedingly shiny, with a round head of mother-of-pearl.  I sat by the fountain and admired it, anemones forgotten.  I thought of Brother Louvel and his beauty, and how I would give myslef to him once I was a woman proper.  I thought of Blessed Elua and his long wandering, his startling answer to the arch-herald of the One God.  The blood he shed might—who knows?—run in my very own veins, I thought; and resolved to see.  I turned my left hand palm-upward and took the pin in a firm grip in my right, pushing it into my flesh.

    “The point sank in with surprising ease.  For a second, it seemed almost of no note; and then the pain blossomed, like an anemone, from the point I had driven into my palm.  My hand sang in agony, and my nerves thrilled with it. It was an unfamiliar feeling, at once bad and good, terribly good, like when I thought of Naamah lying with stangers, only better; more.  I withdrew the pin and watched with fascination as my own red blood filled the tiny indentation, a scarlet pearl in my palm to match the mote in my eye.”

  10. 10
    Chrissy says:

    Good fantasy.  Science Fiction has to work harder to please me. 

    I adore Jacquelyn Carey.  Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaimon, but also Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Walker.

    Good books.  I hate to be cliche, but… good books.

    My pet peeve?  Humor that isn’t humorous but gets “wild and zany accolades.”  I read three, maybe four books a year that make me laugh out loud.  I buy dozens that claim the reviewer was in seizures.

    Either reviewers are prone to seizures (I wasn’t when I was reviewing) or nobody knows what funny really is anymore.

  11. 11
    Shaunee says:

    Sorry, you’ve really started something with me.

    Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.  YA which I don’t usually read, but holy shit did the following scene make my stomach do that twisty melty thing.
    (okay, I don’t know how to do italics.  Embarrassing, I know, so everything italics I shall encase in apostrophes, okay?)

    She’d seen him without a shirt before, seen him in his shorts.  They’d been friends for a while.  ‘What did he say?  Dinner?  Dinner with Seth.’  She stood in his kitchen, watching him toy with the ring in his lip.  It wasn’t quite that he was biting it, but sucking it into his mouth.  He did that when he was concentrating.  ‘It isn’t sexy.  He’s not sexy.’

    But he was, and she was staring at him like a fool.  “Wow,” she whispered.

    She looked away, feeling stupid.  ‘We’re friends.  Friends go to dinner too.  It doesn’t mean anything.’  She opened the cupboard.  The bottle of honey sat next to an odd assortment of spices and oils.  “Dinner, right.  Carla wants to go to the new place over on Vine.  You could…”

    “Wow, huh?”  His voice was low, husky.  His chair creaked as he stood.  His footsteps seemed strangley loud as he closed the couple yards between them.  Then he was beside her.  “I can work with wow.”

  12. 12
    Shaunee says:

    I swear to god, people who eschew genre fiction don’t know what the hell they’re missing.

    Good good stuff.  Love the Laura Kinsale quotes.

  13. 13
    megalith says:

    Wow. I agree on so many of these: Bujold, Carey, Monette, Chase, Kinsale. I’d add Elizabeth Moon, an SF/F writer and (I’m proud to say) fellow alum. Another SF/F writer: Kay Kenyon.

    Damn, after I typed this all out I just reread the post, and you specify *recent* genre fiction. The following was first published in 1975, and Dorothy Dunnett wrote historical fiction; not sure if that’s considered a genre. In any case, the most important skill for any writer of romance is to capture the power and nuance of emotions, and Dunnett was a master. The following is the beginning of chapter 4 of her “Checkmate”, the final book in the Lymond Chronicles.

    For a girl of twenty to fall in love with an experienced dilettante ten years her senior was nothing out of the way. It was perhaps rarer for such a girl to make up her mind, as did Philippa in Lyon, in one night of bitterest soul-searching, that such a relationship was out of the question, and that henceforth his life and hers must lie in different directions.

    There had, of course, been sentimental attachments before in her childhood: to an apothecary, a ballad-monger and a boy from the Abbey who had shared the same teacher. All she remembered, looking back, was the delicious anguish, the laborious subterfuge: to be in the garden when he happened to call; to be in the market place on the day he might ride through. The smile one treasured; the box of glutinous ointment one bought but did not use, because his fingers had touched it.

    The boy from the Abbey was the only one who even learned her name; and he was interested in someone else very much older. She had produced a tear or two for her pillow on occasion, and had wasted a great many hours on devious plans which came to nothing, under the impression that each tender secret was hers only. She remembered her father remarking, on finding the salve, that he didn’t know she was bad with her fetlocks. Later she recognized the loving anxiety and, very likely, the kindly hysteria with which her parents had watched all her antics.

    It had been painful, but only a little. It was self-inflicted pain, teamed with excitement and pleasure and an innocent awareness that one was touching the fringe of something real which might lie round the next corner. When it came, one would know what to do with it. And meanwhile, one need suffer only as much as one wanted to. It was a game.

    It had been so different, her growing interest in Lymond, that she had never connected the one with the other. Brought up by Kate, she had acquired early all Kate’s maturity: the maturity which has to do with understanding other persons and, if called upon, putting those who are understood before one’s own interests. Physical maturity, although she possessed it, had never claimed her attention.

    What had happened therefore was a true awakening: a clear and shadowless light revealing why, through all these years, the condition and wellbeing of one man should so have concerned her.

    Subconsciously, she had divined what he might be. That night, turned upon herself and not outward to others, the elements of his identity had been delivered to her, served upon gold, as the bread and meat and wine of a festival.
    For an hour, blended with all she could offer, something noble had been created which had nothing to do with the physical world. And from the turn of his throat, the warmth of his hair, the strong, slender sinews of his hands, something further; which had. Though she combed the earth and searched through the smoke of the galaxies there was no being she wanted but this, who was not and should not be for Philippa Somerville.

    That her eyes were now open was no fault of his. The pity of it was that, since that evening, he knew it. So, she resolved in that moment, she must remove herself from his circle.

    Sorry this is so long, for those of you who don’t enjoy Dunnett. But as much as I love her writing, I had to include the entire passage. I only wish I could include the wonderful scenes in Lyon, to which Dunnett refers here. But I’ll let those who liked this discover them for themselves!

  14. 14

    Oh bugger.  I missed the bit about ‘recent’ as well, and only one of mine fits. Oh well, mine were *classic* genre fiction, then.

  15. 15

    I’d vote for Ian McDonald’s novel BRASYL, which was recently listed in Amazon’s Top Ten Books of 2007.  They said: “Ian McDonald is hardly a hidden gem to science fiction readers by now, but with Brasyl he has proven once again that he should be reckoned as one of the finest of all our novelists.”  I agree wholeheartedly.

    Good on you, btw, for fighting the genre fight!  And for a bloody good web site.  I am addicted to all this smart bitchery.

  16. 16
    Deb says:

    Does it have to be recent?  I don’t have my books in front of me, but the ones that immediately spring to mind are:

    The Stand by Stephen King (best King *ever*, IMO)

    The Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMasters Bujold

    All of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich

    Pretty much anything La Nora has written, no matter what name she’s writing it under

    Ditto Jenny Crusie (I especially loved her latest with Bob, Agnes and the Hitman).

    And I’m sure there are more.  Of course, there’s also a ton of stuff that I just enjoy and have never bothered to “analyze”, such as Katie MacAlister.

  17. 17
    Ann Bruce says:

    Anything by Neil Gaiman.

    From Sandman #4: A Hope in Hell:

    Choronzon: I am anti-life, the beast of judgment. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds… of everything. And what will you be then, Dreamlord?
    Dream: I am hope.

    You say that I have no power? Perhaps you speak truly. But you say that DREAMS have no power? Ask yourselves, all of you, what power would hell have if those imprisoned here could not dream of heaven?

    From The Books of Magic:

    Dr. Occult: The boy is a natural force, for good or evil, for magic or for science, and it is up to us to channel that force for good. And perhaps, for magic.
    Mr. E: I say that we should kill him. End the matter there.
    The Phantom Stranger: There will be no killing. Our role is only to educate, to offer him the choice.
    The Phantom Stranger: Constantine, if he is to choose the path of magic then he must choose responsibly, he must know enough about the labyrinth to walk a true path through it.
    John Constantine: All we know for sure is that we don’t know anything for sure.
    The Phantom Stranger: That is a particularly foolish thing to say, John Constantine. Light and darkness, life and death. These things are eternally certain.
    The Phantom Stranger: Enlighten the child. Show him what magic truly is, and what it was, and what it may become. He has the potential to become the most powerful human adept of this age. It is up to the four of us to ensure that he chooses correctly. That is our mission and our burden.
    John Constantine: Just what the world’s been waiting for. The charge of the Trenchcoat Brigade.

  18. 18
    Peaches says:

    I think practically any paragraph out of Frank Herbert’s Dune can be an example of prolific genre writing, but what I think where genre really trumps literary is in plot.  You can’t have a simple gunfight in a literary novel without twenty pages of angst attached, let alone a fast paced spaceship battle.  Heaven forbid I be at the edge of my seat while reading!

  19. 19
    Jackie says:

    Ditto those who said anything by Neil Gaiman.

  20. 20
    Octavia says:

    Ditto on Dorothy Dunnett. Her Lymond Chronicles were an absolute revelation to me. I know she’s not recent but, damn, she was a genius.

  21. 21
    aggiedoone says:

    I second Chrissy’s nomination of Christopher Moore, and offer up the following example.

    From, “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove”

    Mavis

    “It was rumored among the regulars at the Head of the Slug that under Mavis Sand’s slack, wrinkled, liver-spotted skin lay the gleaming metal skeleton of a Terminator.  Mavis first began augmenting her parts in the fifties, first out of vanity: breasts, eyelashes, hair.  Later, as she aged and the concept of maintenance eluded her, she began having parts replaced as they failed, until almost half of her body weight was composed of stainless steel (hips, elbows, shoulders, finger joints, rods fused to verebrae five through twelve), silicon wafers (hearing aids, pacemaker, insulin pump), advanced polymer resins (cataract replacement lenses, dentures), Kevlar fabric (abdominal wall reinforcement), titanium (knees, ankles), and pork (ventricular heart valve).  In fact, if not for the pig valve, Mavis would have jumped classes directly from animal to mineral, without the traditional stop at vegetable taken by most.  The more inventive drunks at the Slug (little more than vegetables themselves) swore that sometimes, between songs on the jukebox, one could hear tiny but powerful servomotors whirring Mavis around behind the bar. Mavis was careful never to crush a beer can or move a full keg in plain sight of the customers lest she feed the rumors and ruin her image of girlish vulnerability,”

    And one more from the same book, because Christopher Moore writes the best animals I’ve ever read.

    (Skinner is a black lab; his thoughts about staying behind in the Mercedes)

    “They were stopping.  Oh boy, maybe they would leave him in the car.  That would be good; the seats were chewy and tasted of cow.”

  22. 22
    Rosemary says:

    How about Sunshine by Robin McKinley? First time I read it, it knocked my socks off. I was stunned. Re-reading hasn’t diminished it one iota.
    Wonderful genre fiction.

  23. 23
    Shaunee says:

    I couldn’t agree more about Robin McKinley’s Sunshine.  Simply could not get enough of Constantine.

    One of my all time favorites that breaks just about every rule I ever heard or was taught about what to categorically, hands-down avoid in writing.

    In fact, I need something to read while I do my laundry…

  24. 24
    Marta says:

    For recent sci-fi, I’d say Connie Willis.  I loved her time-travelling comic novel, TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG.  Also, Olivia Butler, who recently passed away.  Her vampire novel FLEDGLING is powerful.  Love Jasper Fforde’s THE EYRE AFFAIR, set in an alternative world where the arts are as important as sports are here and now.  Several posters mentioned Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  I think their collaboration, GOOD OMENS, is terrific.  My fave of Gaiman’s is AMERICAN GODS, which I guess whould be a fantasy/horror novel.

    I’d quote these books, but I’ve loaned them out to friends.

  25. 25

    Dorothy Dunnett, hands down. From beginning to end.
    And I’d say Kinsale as well, at least most of her work. “Shadowheart” has some of the best concealed metaphors I’ve come across in genre fiction.

  26. 26
    MLR says:

    This is not romance.  Indeed it is a fantasy short story, and the scene, though full of love, is not light-hearted.  I cry every time I read this story.  “Singing My Sister Down” by Margo Lanagan:

    Mai began to crumble and falter beside me as the tar closed in on Ik’s face, a slow, sticky, rolling oval. I sang good and strong—-I didn’t want to hear any last whimper, any stopped breath. I took Mai’s arm and tried to hold her together that way, but she only swayed worse, and wept louder. I listened for Mumma under the noise, pressed my eyes shut and made my voice follow hers. By the time I’d steadied myself that way, Ik’s eyes were closing.

      Through our singing, I thought I heard her cry for Mumma; I tried not to, yet my ears went on hearing. This will happen only the once—-you can’t do it over again if ever you feel like remembering. And Mumma went to her, and I could not tell whether Ik was crying and babbling, or whether it was a trick of our voices, or whether the people on the banks of the tar had started up again. I watched Mumma, because Mumma knew what to do; she knew to lie there on the matting, and dip her cloth in the last water with the little fading fish-scales of ice in it, and squeeze the cloth out and cool the shrinking face in the hole.

      And the voice of Ik must have been ours or others’ voices, because the hole Mumma was dampening with her cloth was by her hand movements only the size of a brassboy now. And by a certain shake of her shoulders I could tell: Mumma knew it was all right to be weeping now, now that Ik was surely gone, was just a nose or just a mouth with the breath crushed out of it, just an eye seeing nothing.

    The story was nominated for an award, so the publisher put the entire piece up on the web for reading.  You can find it here: http://www.allenandunwin.com/awards/lanagan.asp

  27. 27
    darlynne says:

    From the detective genre, I would add any phrase, paragraph or chapter from Colin Cotterill’s series set in 1970’s Laos and the contemporary Bangkok series by John Burdette. Their observations about life, crime, death and the after-life are the best of what writing should be.

  28. 28
    Melissa says:

    What would you feel, she wondered, if you crossed the field and walked up the smooth and slick steps left standing in those tumbling stones? Would you-could you-feel the centuries of passing feet that had trod those same steps? Would you, as her grandmother claimed, be able to hear-if only you listened-the music and voices, the clash of battles, the weeping of women, the laughter of children so long dead and gone?

    She didn’t believe in such things, of course. But here, with this light, with this air, it seemed almost possible.”

    The day I read this passage from JEWELS OF THE SUN, is the day I fell in love with La Nora’s writing.

    Now the other people I stand by who constantly can write passages that makes you fall in love the the author is Robert B. Parker, Jennifer Crusie, Terry McMillian, (sp?) Eric Jerome Dickey. These are the few I can think of on the top of my head.

  29. 29
    L Violet says:

    He reached for the glass and was bringing it toward his mouth when he saw her entering the cocktail lounge. _She moved toward him like a thin blade of blue-white steel coming in to cut him in half._

    The Wounded and the Slain / David Goodis. Hardcase Crime, C. (about) 1957.

    Tight and delicious.

  30. 30
    L Violet says:

    amended to say: Repubbed in 2007 for the first time, so in that way it’s recent.

    [The Wounded and the Slain / David Goodis. Hardcase Crime, C. (about) 1957.]

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