Thursday, January 23, 2014

Five more punctuation marks in literature

Following yesterday’s post on punctuation marks in literature, five more, in order of increasing favoritism:

5. The forward slash (or solidus) that takes the place of the apostrophe in Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn: “I/ll see ya tomorrow.”

4. The apostrophes in line nine of William Shakespeare’s sonnet 116: “Love’s not time’s fool,” even if one of them is a later addition. The 1609 Quarto: “Lou’s not Times foole.”

3. The ellipsis that marks silences in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest:


‘. . .’

‘Hey Hal?’
4. The exclamation point that ends Rae Armantrout’s “Dusk”: “I’m not like that!”

5. The comma in the final line of John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 6: “And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die.” Or rather, that comma — not semicolon — as it figures in Margaret Edson’s play Wit. See here.

My top ten, in order of increasing favoritism: Selby, Shakespeare, Pound, Faulkner, Wallace, Joyce, Armantrout, Dickinson, Sterne, Edson.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)

[I’m aware of the charge that the apostrophe is a matter of spelling not punctuation. But I still think of it as punctuation. I’ve read somewhere that Wallace picked up the ellipsis from Manuel Puig. The Playbill for Wit read W;t: a beautiful touch of you-know-what.]

comments: 2

Stefan said...

I was going to suggest the DFW ellipses, but you beat me to it. So instead I'll go with something very different. I've always really liked the comma in Countee Cullen's "Incident," the one that appears in the fourth line of the second stanza and sets off the N-word.

Michael Leddy said...

Here’s the poem online. I hope someday to really understand how commas work with dialogue. I am always second-guessing.

(I owe you an e-mail, big time.)