Wednesday, December 23, 2009

To quote or not to quote?

by Miriam


My friend Jim Donahue of The Velvet Blog, a great copyeditor and literary curmudgeon (in the best sense of the word) pointed me toward this piece in Salon. I admit that I, too, find it irritating when writers decide to do away with punctuation and other grammatical and syntactical rules and claim artistic license as their excuse. Seems to me it’s mostly laziness. But then, I may be a little OCD about the whole thing. How do you all feel about quotation marks gone AWOL?

18 comments:

  1. Forgoing quotation marks has been done so often, it's almost gimmicky now. There's nothing really new and fresh about it, so it seems the "artistic" value is negligible.

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  2. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

    But I'm a little OCD about things like that, too.

    Seriously, I have found it's difficult for me when reading to transition from action/description to conversation and back if I don't have them there.

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  3. Unless you're Cormac McCarthy I would suggest a writer stick with the rules.

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  4. Give me punctuation. Otherwise, I put the book back on the shelf and buy another one.

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  5. To me, this seems like why literary fiction is having trouble finding an audience. Is literary fiction trying to "find itself" like some surly teenager who rebels just for the sake of rebelling? What makes literary fiction - literary fiction? Too many authors (and the disgusted target audience) seem to think that literary fiction means that it should be challenging. Fair enough. But shouldn't that mean challenging in context, not challenging in deciphering??? If I have to pay that close of attention to the prose to parse it, it draws attention away from the story. It's a cheap Las Vegas neon sign blinking "Look at me. I'm special."

    Sorry, but I don't have patience for pretentiousness. :)
    Jami G.

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  6. Angela's Ashes has no quotation marks as I recall.

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  7. Unless there's a specific reason that applies to that specific story (and frankly, I've never heard a convincing reason), it's just pretentious baloney. Even if you're Cormac McCarthy.

    I'm reading José Saramago's Death With Interruptions. A fabulous concept (people stop dying one New Year's Day), but dialogue is presented in long paragraphs with no punctuation other than commas. Something like this: Hello, how are you, I am fine, and the gout, it's getting better, I have a new grandbaby, congratulations, boy or girl, girl, mom is doing fine, let's have lunch sometime, okay, goodbye, goodbye."

    Seriously. What's up with that?! I know it's literary, but if I have to reread a conversation five times to figure out who said what, it's ridiculous.

    If you want to impress me with your true genius, show me you can write within the standard grammatical rules. Write clearly and in a compelling way. Skip the gimmicks.

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  8. Rules are for beginners, like training wheels on bicycles.

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