Ohhh this was a challenge. Over on Slate, there's a contest to submit "the best sentence in the history of English," in honor of Stanley Fish's new book, How to Write a Sentence. If you're like me, and dog-ear the pages of your favorite books, compulsively typing out your favorite quotes...the following activity might prove problematic, even frustrating. Like many of the commenters on Slate, I would quickly point to James Joyce's Ulysses--Molly Bloom's soliloquy is exactly as ecstatic as it is meant to feel. Or the last line of Joyce's "The Dead": "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
Or how about this beauty, from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness? "We live, as we dream—alone." I love the way "alone" is structurally isolated here, proving Conrad's point.
For something more modern, there are always the hard-boiled bon mots of Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye ("There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself"). And this isn't even counting Henry Miller, Anais Nin, or poetry on the whole.
Eventually, here's what I landed on, from a love scene in D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover:
"Rippling, rippling, rippling, like a flapping overlapping of soft flames, soft as feathers, running to points of brilliance, exquisite and melting her all molten inside."
The orgasm is made tactile, inarguably visceral, by words and the order in which they are arranged. For me, it's always been about the assonance and consonance of a sentence--the feelings stirred by these sounds in tandem, and the way a perfect phrase mirrors its own content. It's why I read, and it is most definitely why I write. How about you? Submit your own sentence and join the conversation!