Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Five punctuation marks in literature

Circulating on the Internets: Kathryn Schulz’s list of the five best punctuation marks in literature. It prompts me to make my own (Anglo-American-centric) list of favorites. I can’t claim “best.” But in order of increasing favor:

5. The colon that ends Canto I of Ezra Pound’s The Cantos: “So that:” Later used to end the first sentence of William Faulkner’s The Reivers: “Grandfather said:” And the rest follows.

4. The semicolons that end paragraphs in William Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun:

The courthouse is less old than the town, which began somewhere under the turn of the century as a Chickasaw Agency trading-post and so continued for almost thirty years before it discovered, not that it lacked a depository for its records and certainly not that it needed one, but that only by creating or anyway decreeing one, could it cope with a situation which otherwise was going to cost somebody money;
3. The period that ends the “Ithaca” episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses:

2. Emily Dickinson’s dashes, any one or more of them: “Are you — Nobody — too?”

1. The long dashes in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, which I can only approximate here:
L--d! said my mother, what is all this story about? ——
A COCK and a BULL, said Yorick —— And one of the best of its kind, I ever heard.
Reader, what are your favorite punctuation marks in literature?


I wrote a second post with five more.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)

comments: 1

Elaine said...

(What, Grandmother?)

I think 'what' might even be in Italics.
Wallace Stegner in _Angle of Repose._