Five Great Fiction Passages


When the news of the world (including the Montana Legislature’s inexplicable day) gets a little grim, there’s no better place to turn than fiction. Not content to let the poet praising posters at 4and20blackbirds have the only discussion about great writing, I thought I’d offer some of my favorite passages from fiction. At the moment, these are my top five, in no particular order:

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness:

"The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart of darkness, bearing us down towards the sea with twice the speed of our upward progress; and Kurtz’s life was running swiftly, too, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart into the sea of inexorable time.” –(when we read this in class, I challenge my students to find a better single sentence in literature.)

Don DeLillo, Underworld

"Sometimes I see something so moving I know I’m not supposed to linger.  See it and leave.  If you stay too long, you wear out the wordless shock.  Love it and trust it and leave." 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

“To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”

Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

"The Revolutionary Hill Estates had not been designed to accommodate a tragedy. Even at night, as if on purpose, the development held no looming shadows and no gaunt silhouettes. It was invincibly cheerful, a toyland of white and pastel houses whose bright, uncurtained windows winked blandly through a dappling of green and yellow leaves.”

Any favorite passages the rest of you’d like to share?

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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