Lost lines

In the process of editing, sometimes you need to be ruthless — “to kill your darlings,” as they say. The phrases or paragraphs that you love, but that — in the larger scheme of things — just don’t fit. Here’s one passage, from my current project, like that: a darling that will, alas, have to go:

Stories tell us that what time has taken (all that we have forgotten) is unimportant. To put this another way, stories give form to the compression and distension of time that is the substance of our lives.

As one writer noted, Nothing is more objective than the ticking of the second-hand. But as anyone who has spent an hour in a dentist’s waiting room, or in the arms of a lover, can attest, not all hours are created equal. Time stretches, time flies by, despite all objective evidence to the contrary. And stories alone allow us to express this fact: the decade that can be summarized in a sentence, the minute that takes a hundred sentences to unfold.

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