Longreads Best of 2013: The Best Sentence I Read This Year

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Aileen Gallagher (@aegallagher) teaches magazine journalism at Syracuse University and is a contributing editor to College @Longreads.

“The way it worked was that they joined the Army because they were starry-eyed or heartbroken or maybe just out of work, and then they were assigned to be in the infantry rather than to something with better odds, like finance or public affairs, and then by chance they were assigned to an infantry division that was about to rotate into the war, and then they were randomly assigned to a combat brigade that included two infantry battalions, one of which was going to a bad place and the other of which was going to a worse place, and then they were assigned to the battalion going to the worse place, and then they were assigned to the company in that battalion which went to the worst place of all.”

-From David Finkel’s “The Return,” in The New Yorker (subscription required). Not sure how such an Esquire-y sentence made it into The New Yorker, but I’m glad it did. The sheer weight of the sentence and its many clauses suggests the soldiers’ psychological burden. That sentence carries the cruelty of fate.

The Return

David Finkel | The New Yorker | September 2013

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