Just as I am getting into Francine Prose’s section on the "beautiful" sentence, what better place to be than in a McCarthy novel?
The well-made sentence transcends time and genre. A beautiful sentence is a beautiful sentence, regardless of when it was written, or whether it appears in a play or a magazine article. (p. 36)
And here’s McCarthy:
He’d carried his billfold about till it wore a cornershaped hole in his trousers. Then one day he sat by the roadside and took it out and went through the contents. Some money, credit cards. His driver’s license. A picture of his wife. He spread everything out on the blacktop. Like gaming cards. He pitched the sweatblackened piece of leather into the woods and sat holding the photograph. Then he laid it down on the road also and then he stood and they went on. (p. 43)
A brevity of language, delivered in short, clipped, grammatically incorrect incomplete sentences. But the hopelessness, the almost breathlessness of the staccato structure instead of making it a single long sentence or two is planned. By the time we get to the final moment of his brief action and reflection, we are with the character, in his head, feeling lost and turning our backs on all we’ve known.