Winner got the Schwinn.

Roger Ebert wrote the perfect sentence.

Over the years, he wrote occasionally of Dan-Dan the Yo-Yo Man, who hosted contests at his neighborhood theater. In this Bradbury-esque piece from 2009, one of my favorites of his (and one which he later worked into his autobiography Life Itself), he describes the scene:

“Third weekend, after a surviving handful met the challenges of advanced tricks, the winner got a brand new Schwinn.”

The whole story is just wonderful in every way; you should read it if you haven’t yet.

But three years earlier, in his introduction to his book Awake in the Dark, he found perfection.

It’s the same story, but condensed to a mere two sentences added as throwaway lines at the end of a busy paragraph. Here’s the paragraph in full:

“In my new job at the Sun-Times I wrote about bottled water, hero priests, snake charmers, fortune tellers, and the filming of Camelot. That was my first visit to a movie location. Josh Logan spent most of a day trying to make a lake on the back lot at Warner Brothers look green. On Monday nights, when Second City was dark, they showed underground films in the theater, and I reviewed them for the paper. I wrote obituaries of Walt Disney and Jayne Mansfield, and a memory of the children’s matinees of my youth, when the coming of spring was announced by the arrival at the Princess Theater of Dan-Dan the Yo-Yo Man, an official representative of the Duncan Yo-Yo Company. He held a yo-yo contest on the theater stage. Winner got the Schwinn.”

Winner got the Schwinn.

It’s a master class in the economy of language. Writers should study it closely, learn from it. I have. Often.

Winner got the Schwinn.

You get the entire story in two sentences. Nine words. Set-up. Four words. Punchline.

Winner got the Schwinn.

It paints a picture in full. You can see it. It makes you nostalgic for an event you never even witnessed. It makes you feel… cozy.

Winner got the Schwinn.

That sentence even sounds right. Say it aloud. Feel the noises it makes. It’s poetry. It’s a mantra. It soothes.

Winner got the Schwinn.

It’s the perfect sentence.

copyright 2017 David Cornelius all rights reserved


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