A story by David Moser...

This Is the Title of This Story, Which Is Also
Found Several Times in the Story Itself

     This is the first sentence of this story.  This is  the
second  sentence.  This is the title of this story, which is
also found several times in the story itself.  This sentence
is  questioning  the  intrinsic  value of the first two sen-
tences.  This sentence is to inform you, in case you haven't
already  realized it, that this is a self-referential story,
that is, a story containing sentences that  refer  to  their
own  structure  and  function.  This is a sentence that pro-
vides an ending to the first paragraph.

     This is the first sentence of  a  new  paragraph  in  a
self-referential story.  This sentence is introducing you to
the protagonist of the story, a young boy named Billy.  This
sentence  is  telling  you that Billy is blond and blue-eyed
and American and twelve years old and strangling his mother.
This  sentence  comments  on the awkward nature of the self-
referential narrative form while recognizing the strange and
playful  detachment it affords the writer.  As if illustrat-
ing the point made by the last sentence, this sentence  rem-
inds us, with no trace of facetiousness, that children are a
precious gift from God and that the world is a better  place
when  graced  by  the unique joys and delights they bring to

     This sentence describes Billy's mother's  bulging  eyes
and  protruding tongue and makes reference to the unpleasant
choking and gagging  noises  she's  making.   This  sentence
makes the observation that these are uncertain and difficult
times, and that relationships,  even  seemingly  deep-rooted
and permanent ones, do have a tendency to break down.

     Introduces, in this paragraph, the device  of  sentence
fragments.   A  sentence  fragment.   Another.  Good device.
Will be used more later.

     This is actually the last sentence of the story but has
been  placed  here  by  mistake.   This is the title of this
story, which is  also  found  several  times  in  the  story
itself.   As  Gregor  Samsa  awoke  one  morning from uneasy
dreams he found  himself  in  his  bed  transformed  into  a
gigantic insect.  This sentence informs you that the preced-
ing sentence is from another story entirely (a  much  better
one,  it must be noted) and has no place at all in this par-
ticular narrative.  Despite  claims of  the  preceding  sen-
tence,  this sentence feels compelled to inform you that the
story you are reading is in actuality "The Metamorphosis" by
Franz  Kafka,  and  that  the  sentence  referred  to by the
preceding sentence is the only sentence  which  does  indeed
belong in this story.  This sentence overrides the preceding
sentence by informing the  reader  (poor,  confused  wretch)
that this piece of literature is actually the Declaration of
Independence, but that the author,  in  a  show  of  extreme
negligence (if not malicious sabotage), has so far failed to
include even one single sentence from that  stirring  document,  
although  he has condescended to use a small sentence
fragment, namely, "When in  the  course  of  human events", 
embedded in  quotation  marks  near  the end of a sentence.
Showing a keen awareness of the boredom and  downright  hos-
tility  of  the  average reader with regard to the pointless
conceptual games indulged in  by  the  preceding  sentences,
thiss  sentence  returns  us  at  last to the scenario of the
story by asking the question, "Why is Billy  strangling  his
mother?"  This  sentence  attempts to shed some light on the
question posed by the preceding sentence  but  fails.  This
sentence,  however, succeeds, in that it suggests a possible
incestuous relationship between Billy  and  his  mother  and
alludes to the concomitant Freudian complications any astute
reader will immediately envision.  Incest.  The  unspeakable
taboo.   The universal prohibition.  Incest.  And notice the
sentence fragments?  Good literary  device.   Will  be  used
more later.

     This is the first sentence in a new paragraph.  This is
the last sentence in a new paragraph.

     This sentence  can serve as either the beginning of the
paragraph  or  end, depending on its placement.  This is the
title of this story, which is also found  several  times  in
the  story itself.  This sentence raises a serious objection
to the  entire  class  of  self-referential  sentences  that
merely comment on their own function or placement within the
story e.g., the preceding four sentences),  on  the  grounds
that  they  are monotonously predictable, unforgivably self-
indulgent, and merely serve to distract the reader from  the
real  subject  of  this  story, which at this point seems to
concern strangulation and incest and who  knows  what  other
delightful topics.  The purpose of this sentence is to point
out that the preceding sentence, while not itself  a  member
of  the  class  of self-referential sentences it objects to,
nevertheless also serves merely to distract the reader  from
the real subject of this story, which actually concerns Gre-
gor Samsa's  inexplicable  transformation  into  a  gigantic
insect  (despite the vociferous counterclaims of other well-
meaning although misinformed sentences).  This sentence  can
serve  as  either  the  beginning  of  the paragraph or end,
depending on its placement.

     This is the title of this story, which  is  also  found
several times in the story itself.  This is almost the title
of the story, which is found only once in the story  itself.
This  sentence  regretfully states that up to this point the
self-referential mode of  narrative  has  had  a  paralyzing
effect  on  the  actual progress of the story itself -- that
is, these sentences have been so  concerned  with  analyzing
themselves and their role in the story that they have failed
by and large to perform their function as  communicators  of
events  and ideas that one hopes coalesce into a plot, char-
acter development, etc. -- in short, the very raisons d'etre
of  any  respectable, hardworking sentence in the midst of a
piece of compelling prose fiction.  This sentence  in  addi-
tion  points  out  the obvious analogy between the plight of
these  agonizingly  self-aware   sentences   and   similarly
afflicted  human  beings,  and  it  points out the analogous
paralyzing effects wrought by excessive and  tortured  self-

     The purpose of this sentence (which can also serve as a
paragraph)  is  to  speculate  that  if  the  Declaration of
Independence had been worded and structured  as  lackadaisi-
cally  and  incoherently  as  this  story  has  been so far,
there's no telling what kind  of  warped  libertine  society
we'd  be  living  in  now or to what depths of decadence the
inhabitants of this country might have  sunk,  even  to  the
point  of deranged and debased writers constructing irritat-
ingly cumbersome and needlessly prolix sentences that  some-
times  possess the questionable if not downright undesirable
quality of referring to themselves and they  sometimes  even
become  run-on  sentences or exhibit other signs of inexcus-
ably sloppy grammar like unneeded  superfluous  redundancies
that  almost  certainly  would have insidious effects on the
lifestyle and morals of our  impressionable  youth,  leading
them  to  commit  incest or even murder and maybe that's why
Billy is strangling his mother, because  of  sentences just 
like this one , which have no discernible goals or perspicu-
ous purpose and just end up anywhere, even in mid

     Bizarre.   A  sentence  fragment.   Another   fragment.
Twelve  years  old.   This  is a sentence that.  Fragmented.
And strangling his mother.  Sorry, sorry.   Bizarre.   This.
More  fragments.  This is it.  Fragments.  The title of this
story, which.  Blond.  Sorry, sorry.  Fragment  after  frag-
ment.   Harder.   This is a sentence that.  Fragments.  Damn
good device.

     The purpose of this sentence is threefold: (1) to  apo-
logize  for the unfortunate and inexplicable lapse exhibited
by the preceding paragraph; (2) to assure you,  the  reader,
that  it  will  not  happen  again; and (3) to reiterate the
point that these are uncertain and difficult times and  that
aspects of language, even seemingly stable and deeply rooted
ones such as syntax and meaning, do break down.   This  sen-
tence  adds  nothing  substantial  to  the sentiments of the
preceding sentence but merely provides a concluding sentence
to this paragraph, which otherwise might not have one.

     This sentence, in a  sudden  and  courageous  burst  of
altruism,  tries  to  abandon  the self-referential mode but
fails.  This sentence tries again, but the attempt is doomed
from the start.

     This sentence, in a last-ditch attempt to  infuse  some
iota  of story line into this paralyzed prose piece, quickly
alludes to Billy's frantic cover-up attempts, followed by  a
lyrical,  touching,  and beautifully written passage wherein
Billy is reconciled with his father (thus resolving the sub-
liminal Freudian conflicts obvious to any astute reader) and
a final exciting police chase scene during  which  Billy  is
accidentally  shot  and killed by a panicky rookie policeman
who is coincidentally named Billy.  This sentence,  although
basically  in complete sympathy with the laudable efforts of
the preceding action-packed  sentence,  reminds  the  reader
that  such  allusions  to a story that doesn't, in fact, yet
exist are no substitute for the  real  thing  and  therefore
will  not  get the author (indolent goof-off that he is) off
the proverbial hook.

     Paragraph.  Paragraph.  Paragraph.   Paragraph.   Para-
graph.    Paragraph.    Paragraph.   Paragraph.   Paragraph.
Paragraph.  Paragraphh.  Paragraph.  Paragraph.  Paragraph.

     The purpose.  Of this paragraph.  Is to apologize.  For
its gratuitous use.  Of.  Sentence fragments.  Sorry.

     The purpose of this sentence is to  apologize  for  the
pointless  and  silly  adolescent  games  indulged in by the
preceding two paragraphs, and to express regret on the  part
of  us,  the  more mature sentences, that the entire tone of
this story is such that it can't seem to communicate a  sim-
ple, albeit sordid, scenario.

     This sentence wishes to apologize for all the  needless
apologies  found  in  this story (this one included), which,
although placed here ostensibly for the benefit of the  more
vexed  readers,  merely delay in a maddeningly recursive way
the continuation of the by-now nearly forgotten story line.

     This sentence is bursting at the punctuation marks with
news of the dire import of self-reference as applied to sen-
tences, a practice  that  could  prove  to  be  a  veritable
Pandora's  box  of  potential  havoc,  for if a sentence can
refer or allude to  itself,  why  not  a  lowly  subordinate
clause,   perhaps  this very  clause?   Or this  sentence
fragment?  Or three words?  Two words?  One?

     Perhaps it is appropriate that this sentence gently and
with  no  trace  of  condescension reminds us that these are
indeed difficult and uncertain times  and  that  in  general
people  just  aren't  nice enough to each other, and perhaps
we, whether sentient human  beings  or  sentient  sentences,
should just try harder.  I mean, there is such a thing as
free will, there has to be, and this sentence  is  proof  of
it!   Neither  this  sentence  nor  you, the reader, is com-
pletely helpless in the face of all the pitiless  forces  at
work  in  the  universe.   We  should stand our ground, face
facts, take Mother Nature by the throat and just try harder.
By the throat.  Harder.  Harder, harder.


     This is the title of this story, which  is  also  found
several times in the story itself.

     This is the last sentence of the story.   This  is  the
last  sentence  of  the story.  This is the last sentence of
the story.  This is.


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