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Room for improvementAs It Happenedby David StoreyJonathan Cape 1799 pp420Writing the first chapter of a novel is like putting your flat on the market and preparing it for viewing Lucid grammar helpful punctuation clear presentation of person and event - these are the equivalents in prose of fresh flowers bread and coffee smells the string quartet on the landingStarting to read As It Happened on the other hand is like venturing into a dark hallway crammed with bicycle frames feral cats and mysterious boxes of treasure that the previous occupant could never bear to throw away Among the things David Storey has hoarded are commas brackets and present participles About main verbs he is less sentimental This for instance is the last sentence of his first chapter Sobriety verging on unease the object of Maddoxs morning so much having preceded him until this moment - a moment glancing at Rachels drawing above his head when it felt as if he were about to reinvent himselfGrammar is loose to the point of non-existence Sentences routinely run out of structure about halfway and continue with tacked-on phrases like he long of the opinion Phrases in apposition to the whole sentence or modelled after the Latin ablative absolute as in Deo volente are hard going in English because their relationship to the whole is so indeterminate Latin writers used the ablative absolute often - but then Latin had an ablative Latin words bear the marks of their case as English words do not The meaning of an English sentence is socially constructed as it were - its internal links are looser the hierarchy subtlerThe whole experience of reading a sentence like the following is of waiting for sense or a verb to emerge Placed by their father in the seats of his cars lined in an intoxicatingly scented row behind his showroom windows the light reflecting off their bonnets - mudguards roofs - the massage as he called
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