21 Examples of Purely Perfect Prose from Literature

Plot-driven books can fly off of shelves and earn "bestseller" designations left and right but it's prose-driven works that become true classics. The folks over on reddit have been asking the question, "Have you ever come across a sentence in a novel you considered absolutely perfect?" and have identified a solid cross-section of timeless lines to take your breath away. This is just a sample; reflect on your own readings and please share more perfect lines below in the comments.

She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.
— JD Salinger, "A Girl I Knew" (short story)
 
I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.
— Leo Tolstoy, "Anna Karenina"
 
The flames sawed in the wind and the embers paled and deepened and paled and deepened like the bloodbeat of some living thing eviscerate upon the ground before them and they watched the fire which does contain within it something of men themselves inasmuch as they are less without it and are divided from their origins and are exiles.
— Cormac McCarthy, "Blood Meridian"
 
And perhaps in this is the whole difference; perhaps all the wisdom, and all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressed into that inappreciable moment of time in which we step over the threshold of the invisible.
— Joseph Conrad, "Heart of Darkness"
 
Because when I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.
— Bohumil Hrabal, "Too Loud a Solitude"
 
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
— Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "One Hundred Years of Solitude"
 
...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
— Jack Kerouac, "On the Road"
 
The pieces I am, she gather them and gave them back to me in all the right order.
— Toni Morrison, "Beloved"
 
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
— Sylvia Plath, "The Bell Jar"
 
There was a star riding through clouds one night, after the garden party, and I said to the star, ‘Consume me.’
— Virginia Woolf, "The Waves"
 
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened – then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby"
 
It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
— Aldous Huxley, "Island"
 
Killing time isn’t as difficult as it sounds. I can shoot a hundred numbers through the chest and watch them bleed decimal points in the palm of my hand. I can rip the numbers off a clock and watch the hour hand tick tick tick its final tock just before I fall asleep. I can suffocate seconds just by holding my breath. I’ve been murdering minutes for hours and no one seems to mind.
— Tahereh Mafi, "Shatter Me"
 
All I touch are branches, hard and twisted like the hearts of bullied little animals.
— Haruki Murakami, "Kafka on the Shore"
 
What are the stars but points in the body of God where we insert the healing needles of our terror and longing?
— Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"
 
Not to fall was too hard, too hard: and he felt the silent lapse of his soul, as it would be at some instant to come, falling, falling but not yet fallen, still unfallen but about to fall.
— James Joyce, "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"
 
And if it’s around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.
— Ray Bradbury, "Something Wicked This Way Comes"
 
If one bird carried every grain of sand, grain by grain, across the ocean, by the time he got them all on the other side, that would only be the beginning of eternity.
— Truman Capote, "In Cold Blood"
 
The darker the night the brighter the stars. The deeper the grief the closer is God.
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "Crime and Punishment"
 
A host of small frogs filled the water, feeding on the algae that turned the surface of the lagoon into a translucent jelly. A nervous egret plunged through the haze, hunting the small snakes that in turn fed upon the frogs. It burst from the water and screamed across the ferry. The wriggling form in its beak covered the air with a calligraphy of pain.
— J.G. Ballard, "The Day of Creation"
 
Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
— Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird