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The New Republic's Best Sentences

From Virginia Woolf, H.L. Mencken, Ralph Ellison, and more

H. L. Mencken

“Meditation in E Minor,” September 8, 1920

Politically I am absolutely honest, which is to say, as honest as possible; which is to say, honest more or less; which is to say, far more honest than the general.

Michael Walzer 

“The New Terrorists,” August 30, 1975

One of the reasons they are as strong as they are is that the rest of us have lost the courage of our loathing.

W.H. Auden

“Sigmund Freud,” October 6, 1952

Today, thanks to Freud, the man-on-the-street knows (to quote by an inaccurate memory from Punch) that, when he thinks a thing, the thing he thinks is not the thing he thinks he thinks, but only the thing he thinks he thinks he thinks.

Langston Hughes

“Down Under in Harlem,” March 27, 1944

Only the pool halls open, the candy stores that bootleg liquor, the barbecue stands where you can listen to the juke-box even if you’re broke and don’t want to buy anything, and the long Harlem streets outside dimmed out because Hitler might send his planes overhead some dark night.

Martha Gellhorn

“Journey Through a Peaceful Land,” June 30, 1947

It is amazing how permanent a place can look, how rooted and unchanging the populace, when there are no burned tanks beside the road, no buildings split in half, no fields scooped by shell fire.

Andrew Sullivan

Peter Oumanski

“Here Comes the Groom,” August 28, 1989

There’s a less elaborate argument for gay marriage: it’s good for gays.

Walter Lippmann

Peter Oumanski

“Life is Cheap,” December 19, 1914

It may be said with justice that the man is dangerous who talks loudly about military preparation and is uninterested in social reform.

Michael Kelly

“A Plea For Diversity,” December 16, 1996

The Washington Male is the reason so many Washington females have that drawn, pained expression all the time.

Virginia Woolf

“The Movies and Reality,” August 4, 1926

It is as if the savage tribe [filmmakers], instead of finding two bars of iron to play with, had found, scattering the seashore, fiddles, flutes, saxophones, trumpets, grand pianos by Erard and Bechstein, and had begun with incredible energy, but without knowing a note of music, to hammer and thump upon them all at the same time.

Ralph Ellison

“Great Day Coming,” February 17, 1947

Thus all [Frederick Douglass’s] life he had to fall back upon what was fundamental in his experience, remembering that the key to his basic identity lay neither in books, nor in white men’s minds, but in the slavery-scars on his back.

Jefferson Morley

“What Crack is Like,“ October 2, 1989

When you’re back outside prowling the lunar landscape of post-Reagan urban America at two in the morning with your high fading and your heartbeat racing, you’ll begin to learn that crack is both a mental and a material phenomenon.

Rebecca West

“The Duty of Harsh Criticism,” November 7, 1914

For only through art can we cultivate annoyance with inessentials, powerful and exasperated reactions against ugliness, a ravenous appetite for beauty; and these are the true guardians of the soul.