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STUNNING SENTENCES: Are You Questioning?

For my eleventh birthday, my father gave me Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions. The book is composed of 316 unanswerable questions, a mix of comic, surreal, poignant, and Orphic. “What color is the scent of the blue weeping of violets?” writes Neruda. “If I have died and don’t know it of whom do I ask the time?” “In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?”

Later, in my twenties, when I worked as a journalist, my job, essentially, was to ask questions. Perhaps those years as a newspaper reporter fine-tuned my ear for questions in fiction, because whenever I come across one, something shifts inside. The distance collapses between the protagonist and me, and I find myself standing alongside the character, pondering whatever question has been posed. It’s almost as if the character and I are in limbo, a point in which we are lost, either having risen to a hilltop of false promise or descended into existential despair. It’s a wonderful point in a story, because now it feels like the narrative could head an entirely new direction. Continue reading

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