A 202-word opening sentence

Beneath a certain tree, which I will call a sweet gum tree, not because it was a sweet gum tree or was not one, (I don’t remember what kind it was or whether I knew at the time what kind it was, being no more knowledgeable I suspect than the average reader, and probably would not have known if I had tried at the time to identify it) but because writers are told to be specific — to give particular rather than generic names to the things we talk about — providing for readers a distinct and vivid picture of the narrative setting, although I could stop twenty people on the street and not three of them could spot a sweet gum tree if they were standing under one, and readers, knowing in their heart of hearts that they could not distinguish between a sweet gum and an ailanthus if they were given a running start, two Boy Scouts, and an Audubon guide, still believe they are entitled, from the outset, to a full, detailed, and unambiguous picture of the locale, so I will say it was a sweet gum tree beneath which a young man was sitting as the story opens.


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