“In the loveliest town of all”

Last week I finished reading Stuart Little to two of my youngest children. There was much that I enjoyed about it, but particularly near the end I was surprised by joy with this passage: the first paragraph of chapter 13:

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How wonderful! A lovely little line about a lovely little town in Stuart Little. This whole charming paragraph is really just one big sentence. There are four big clauses in the middle here, stacked like an inverted pyramid, and that last long clause does go gorgeously on and on (itself in four stacked chunks, the last of which goes gorgeously on and on).

I also like how all of that meandering meat in the middle of the sentence is tied together: we start off with “In the loveliest town of all” and after our quick guided tour of paradise we’re pulled back in for the main idea by a neat reordering of that initial introduction: “in this loveliest of all towns.” Delightful!

It’s a nearly-pastoral appreciation of bygone Americana that all leads up to a great and irrepressibly cute detail: Stuart got a sarsaparilla.

Norman Rockwell couldn’t have painted a more perfect picture than E.B. White did here.

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