The Paris Review

The Insouciant Sentence

In our eight-part series Life Sentence, the literary critic Jeff Dolven takes apart and puts back together one beloved or bedeviling sentence each week. Artist Tom Toro illustrates each sentence Dolven chooses.

© Tom Toro

Americans are particularly bad at lying, thought Oscar Wilde. Whatever he would say of us today, his views in 1891, when his essay “The Decay of Lying” was published, were clear enough:

The crude commercialism of America, its materialising spirit, its indifference to the poetical side of things, and its lack of imagination and of high unattainable ideals, are entirely due to that country having adopted for its national hero a man, who, according to his own confession, was

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