One could say that Marc St.Martin was born too early. Many have done just that; few more forcefully than Heidi Kohlenberg, whose brusque obituary (appearing in last week’s Majfisk) claims that St.Martin ‘was so revolutionary, he had been and gone before the revolution even started’. I’m not sure I know what Miss Kohlenberg means by this, other than that St.Martin’s ideas were ahead of his time – which might be true, were if not for the fact that St.Martin wasn’t really a man of ideas. He was just a writer, yearning for the perfect sentence.
Writers of single sentences (‘one-liners’, if you will) have always been valued: this cannot be denied. One only has to look at the history of quotation collections to realise this. We have always been suckers for a witty line, delicately constructed and packing a silent punch. It suits our lazy sensibilities. Since the dawn of something called ‘twitter’, however, people have begun to get a little over-excited by brevity. The potentialities of the one well-worded sentence are much discussed; far rarely put into practice. ‘Twitter’ has a long way to go before it starts consistently spewing out brilliant one-liners – this much is certain.
Meanwhile, allow me to burst your hopeful bubbles and reveal to you now that Marc St.Martin, contrary to all the over-eager journalists who have treated his death as an excuse for poorly researched puff-pieces, was not and would never have been a ‘twitterer’ (or is it ‘tweeter’? I forget, and care not). Though he was, to the very end of his long life, a dedicated single sentence writer, the vast majority (if not all) of his sentences found happy homes within larger texts. Brevity was his thing, yes, but his brief creations always formed part of something larger. The perfect sentence, for him, was not a standalone piece. It was a cog in the machine. A smart and shiny cog, perhaps, but part of the machine all the same.
St.Martin was a writer for hire, it has been said; though it is important to realise that he fulfilled this unpopular role with glee. He wouldn’t have wished it any other way. He never sought for anything more than to contribute a wonderful sentence here or there; to work his magic, take his pay and slip away, safely, into the night.