Over at The Millions, Garth Risk Hallberg has diagrammed a sentence of Barack Obama's, building on the central insight Zadie Smith laid out in her recent essay:
This may be the essential Obama gift: making complexity and caution sound bold and active, even masculine… or rather, it may be one facet of a larger gift: what Zadie Smith calls "having more than one voice in your ear." Notice the canny way that the sentence above turns on the fulcrum of what may be Obama's favorite word: "but." What appears to be a hard line – "My view . . . continue reading, and add your comments
The Chagall Position has an interesting post on the use of speech-attribution tags in Bernhard:
With a scanner and the right software program, of course, it should be possible to arrive at the exact number of overall tags in the entire Bernhard corpus, and thus also to calculate the precise numerical average of tags per page (tpp) for the entire Bernhard corpus. One might arrive at a figure such as 4.85tpp, for instance, rounded up from, say, 4.8489tpp. . . .
In more conventional fiction such tags exist only to be elided. Their traditional function is to anchor . . . continue reading, and add your comments
The current New York Review has an interesting essay (subs. only) about English-speakers’ ongoing efforts to corral their language into a dictionary, and how this job is made more difficult by "more than a billion English-speakers, many engaged in a ceaseless global conversation."
Among many types of wordbooks–"dictionaries of plants and flavors, politics and numismatics, zoology and psychopathology; wordbooks for consultation, exam study, and game playing; collections of euphemisms, profanity, slang, and cant; a dictionary of terrorism and a dictionary of drinking water"–the essay discusses what is believed to be the first English dictionary, 2,500 entries long and . . . continue reading, and add your comments
The Wall Street Journal has an unfortunately dumb editorial by Lionel Shriver attacking authors who opt not to use quotation marks in their fiction. Shriver takes what might be an interesting topic for discussion–what the inclusion or disinclusion of quotations marks from speech does to a novel’s aesthetics–and oddly shoehorns it into a flat, quasi-populist condemnation of authors who push away readers with "difficult" quotationless fiction:
Literature is not very popular these days, to put it mildly. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, nearly half of Americans do not read books at all, and those who . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Sameer Rahim has some interesting thoughts on colons:
I was taught that a colon indicates that what follows it contains information that fulfils or explains the preceding clause. In literary usage, it is often used to indicate momentum, as one part of the sentence vaults to the next half. In Martin Amis’s Money, the fast-living narrator, who moves through New York and London, only uses colons, never semi-colons. That is until the final sentence of the book, when he has grown more reflective and mature. (This being Amis, the trick is highlighted for us about 100 pages from . . . continue reading, and add your comments