03/25/2011 05:11 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Literary Power of Page 56

Tonight a Facebook status game appeared in my news feed. The rules: Open a book to page 56, find the fifth sentence, and post that sentence as your status update. Leave off the book title.

That's fun, but not as much fun as a bunch of friends posting all those random sentences as comments, where they can form surreal stream-of-commentness literature. I suggested doing that, but nobody nibbled. So maybe my sense of fun is impaired.

Forging ahead nonetheless, mainly because I am in the Cooper Square hotel, which stocks each room with a small library of books, I have assembled my own weird literary stream according to the 56/5 rule, using 21 books. I kept the sentence order as I found it, and took the license of arranging paragraphs.

Is the result oddly profound? I think it has the combined ineffability of the Tao Te Ching, a fortune cookie, and the Magic 8 Ball -- but my judgment of coherence has been seriously damaged by Twitter addiction. Speaking of which, honestly, is the scene below less salient than the Twitter feed that awaits you in another browser tab?

Pay particular attention to the arresting conclusion. Only the happy confluence of a Czech phrase book, a collection of short stories by Bret Hart, and Nancy Astor, A Lady Unashamed could evoke the pathos inherent in this stunning denouement.

Enjoy. Then back to your Twitter page, where sanity resides.


Heissman was asleep in his cabin, uneasily, restlessly asleep, but clearly not ill. Many emotions swirled in me simultaneously. The hair of yesteryear streamed, waved, flowed. Marnie jerked her head up.

"Who's Thor?" Flames have the same effect on a crowd as blood has on a wild beast.

"He's a marketer's dream."

He had made good progress, close to three miles an hour, despite falling four more times and detouring every thirty minutes to confirm he wasn't drastically off course. Rome was ruled by a corrupt local oligarchy against which the popes were powerless.

"Who went to the Diana Ross concert?" they were asked. Here she shut her eyes tight. It was an exclusively agricultural area situated in the lowlands neighboring the Huai River. Directly across from her, Brian Rice began to weep softly into his cupped palms. He and his followers returned over the coastal desert and along the high plateau to Cuzco full of resentment that exploded in civil war.

"We shall probably be there," he informed Ottoline, "for a few days at least." Oblique life is very intimate. It is better, therefore, to use Kentucky blue grass in a mixture. Diderot's work, bold and revolutionary though it was, was by no means the first eighteenth-century expression of skepticism of Christianity.

Mozna, ze tam nejsou. It was repeated in the interior of a dusky courtyard, surrounded by a low corridor, where a dozen green-jacketed men of aboriginal type and complexion, carrying antique flintlocks, were drawn up as a guard of honor. Hence the contradiction in her, and the apparent hypocrisy.