Compound-Complex Confession

I confess.

I have committed a sin graver than enjoying the whale descriptions in Moby Dick.

Black and white painting of Cooper

James Fennimore Cooper by Brady (Wikipedia)

I like like James Fennimore Cooper.

No, it’s more than liking. I love and admire his style and diction, especially his mastery of the compound-complex sentence.

Now I believe I have found his modern day equal in the recently deceased Iain Banks, author of the Culture series of sci-fi philosophical novels as well as the masterful Wasp Factory.

I came upon the following paragraph on page 36 (hard copy) of his 1997 A Song of Stone:

I saw so many dances here. Each hall brought everyone of note from counties upon counties away; from each great house, from each plump farm, from over the wooded hills around and across that fertile plain they came, like iron filings to a magnet drawn; sclerotic grandees, rod-backed matrons, amiable buffoons ruddily ho-hoing, indulgent city relations down for a little country air or to kill for sport or find a spouse, beaming boys with faces polished as their shoes, cynical graduates come to sneer and feast, poised observers of the social scene cutting their drinks with the barbed remarks, dough-fresh country youths with invitations clutched, new blossomed maidens half embarrassed, half proud of their emergent allure; politicians, priests and the brave fighting men; the old money, the new money, the once-monied, the titled and the expleted, the fawn-shy and just the fawning, the well matured and the spoiled … the castle has room for them all.

I have been to that ball (and never been to any other).

Find me a two-sentence paragraph that describes more fully and yet so succinctly, that offers “plump farms,” “the fawn-shy and just the fawning” and “new blossomed maidens half embarrassed, half proud of their emergent allure.”

I do not hope to write so well, but I can certainly admire better than most.

After all, I like James Fennimore Cooper.

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