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
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
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.