Friday, November 07, 2008

vocab (mccarthy style from the back page)

today a facebook friend told me that he loves jane eyre because of charlotte bronte's interesting use of punctuation. and then, in a seemingly unrelated incident, another friend commented on the story that i wrote about my encounter with a man and his paradox finding device. not to gloat, but she gave me a very big compliment on the piece; she wrote, "Andrew I love this! And, by the way, you sound like...cormac mccarthy. I'm serious." i was feeling very happy, but then i remembered that this particular 17 point scale fan didn't enjoy reading cormac mccarthy. hmm...

anyway, it just so happens that i have a post that i've been meaning to publish on punctuation and cormac mccarthy, and the conversion of these two incidents seems like the sign that i've been waiting for. it is time.

over the course of my blogging career i've written several entries under the heading of "back page." these were blog posts that borrowed their text from the postscripts of occasional wisdom and much long-winded, overblown verbosity that i scribbled in the back pages of the novels that i recently finished reading. although i like the idea of the "back page" posts, i have since stopped writing in my novels, which makes the simple transcription from book to internet nearly impossible. thus, i am phasing out the "back page" posts and using this post as something of a transition...

THE BORDER TRILOGY, books 1 and 2

all the pretty horses
by cormac mccarthy
the crossing by cormac mccarthy

critical accolades:
all the pretty horses won the national book award and the national book critics circle award.

less official acclaim:
greg wolfe, editor of image, has repeatedly described cormac mccarthy as one of the greatest american writers, and the crossing as cormac's greatest novel.

the 17 point scale concurs:
these are my favorite books of 2007, and cormac mcarthy is my favorite author of 2006 and 2007. he is the master of the dark, thoughtful novel of hope. his characters occupy a strange space between passion and stoicism, and his landscapes are quietly authentic.

but i'll spare you a mccarthy lovefest. instead, i'll bludgeon you with another andrew favorite, grammar.

as i was reminding myself about the plots of all the pretty horses and the crossing, i stumbled upon a new word: polysyndeton.

yes, apparently, cormac writes using polysyndeton. i knew this, i've just never put a name to it. he writes of a man walking and stooping and brushing the blood from a horse's hoof. cormac is stylistically spare--he shuns question marks, semicolons, and the ever-helpful quotation mark--but in my attempt at cormacian polysyndeton, you'll note a superfluous and. that's because polysyndeton is the deliberate use of several unnecessary conjunctions in close succession. i've called it the literary and but polysyndeton is probably a more universal term. in any case, passages like this are the bread and butter of mccarthy. they subtly slow down the text and thereby help communicate a sense of quiet. they also a have a distinctly biblical feel.

if you're not mccarthy, you probably write using syndeton or a single conjunction.

or perhaps you're crazy. perhaps you write using asyndeton, that is, the deliberate omission of conjunctions altogether. you know, little jewels like: i came, i saw, i blogged.

(and then i stopped blogging for several months because i was so busy working for that great shining star of online awesomeness,
the other journal.)