That early preference for things small has stuck with me, though it's evolved beyond gravel. One of its manifestations is the special affection I feel for a well-crafted paragraph. To be interesting and informative is hard; most writers rarely manage it. To be interesting, informative, and stylish is rare indeed. And a writing that is interesting, informative, stylish, and concise — that's a special treat.
In the middle of a four paragraph history of literacy in the West (itself quite a feat of concision), Ursula Le Guin writes:
In Europe, one can perceive through the Middle Ages a slow broadening of the light of the written word, which brightens into the Renaissance and shines out with Gutenberg. Then, before you know it, slaves are reading, and revolutions are made with pieces of paper called Declarations of this and that, and schoolmarms replace gunslingers all across the Wild West, and people are mobbing the steamer delivering the latest installment of a new novel to New York, crying, "Is Little Nell dead? Is she dead?"1Eighty-five words to cover a millennium and a half, evoking a half-dozen images along the way.2 A miniature masterpiece.
1 Ursula K. Le Guin, "Staying Awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading," Harper's Magazine vol 316, nr. 1893 (Feb. 2008), pp. 33-38, at p. 34.