I'm a grammar nazi. This isn't a fact I try to hide. Though I don't bust it out unless it's for my critique group or my own writing (so, no, I do not go around correcting people on Facebook, for instance). I went to the library this week to see if they had any of the books from the best horror novels I'm reading through and reviewing every other Friday. The travesty that was the horror selection at the library is a post for another day, but I did end up finding a Cormac McCarthy book, Blood Meridian. I'd been curious about him for awhile, so I decided to pick it up in addition to the ONE book from the horror list I found that I hadn't yet read (a Ray Bradbury).
Judging by my title, you can maybe tell where this is going, at least if you've read him. Maybe you're nodding? Maybe it's just me.
He also has a very stream of consciousness way of writing. I realized partway through a sentence that it had been going for quite awhile already. It actually ended up taking all of one page and part of another. In a hardcover. A single sentence that was more than one page long.
And, yes, it distracted me. It was working at first, but it pulled me out of the story when I realized it had been going on and on and on. Still, the fact that I made it as far as I did means his writing was flowing, despite the run-on sentence from Hades. That's the thing about his writing. If he weren't a good writer, it would be downright unreadable. Instead, you're lulled into continuing, muscling through. His flow and pacing work well. His descriptions are engrossing.
While he is a good writer, painting a picture with his words, I'm finding his writing style distracting. My poor little grammar nazi writer's soul is twitching inside me as I read on. Out of curiosity, I went to Amazon to look at what reviewers had to say. First of all, with 984 reviews, he's at 4 stars. Impressive. Or not? I don't know. Feels impressive to me for someone who has gone so far out of the mainstream rules of writing.
Anyway, I made it through five pages of reviews before anyone mentioned his lack of correct punctuation. Did they all know about it ahead of time? Does it really just not bother people?
In fact, the biggest technical complaint was about the vocabulary. The biggest non-technical complaint was about the violence. A lot of people took issue with the "pompous," "obscure," or "pretentious" vocabulary. Several of them said he did it on purpose to prove how smart he was. In fact, people repeatedly said they had to pull out a dictionary to finish reading it. I'm not that far in yet, maybe about 80 pages, but I have not had this issue. And not because I'm brilliant. I've got an okay vocabulary from being an avid reader, but it sounded from these reviews like every other word was twenty syllables.
But those same people had no issue with the screwed up punctuation?
Blink, blink. (Again.)
The thing is, I'm not having a terribly hard time figuring out when someone's talking. For the most part, it's quite clear. Yet it does pull me out of the story. I did notice that it gives a different feel to the book, changes the voice and tone some, which I find interesting. I want to continue examining that effect.
It makes me wonder, though, how he got published in the first place? I look at how regimented submission guidelines can be, and wonder just how someone gets their start when, from what I've been told, he does this in all his books. What editor took that gamble in the first place? What reader said, "I like this," and spread the word? How did his editor/agent get past the first page this occurred on and not give up, when we're told these days that mistakes on the first page mean they're not going to keep reading?
In other words, what's up with this?
Also, side note: Did they really use "ye" in the Old West? Because his characters are doing that. And I'm curious.
There's no big point to this post except that I wanted to talk about it, I guess. I'm curious how something like this begins, what the writer is thinking, what the editor was thinking, and just WHY? And I'm also curious as to why it doesn't bother more people. I get that I may be more bothered by something like this than most people, but I'd think it would irk anyone who is accustomed to reading, oh, I don't know, proper punctuation!? (<----totally not proper punctuation, but this is a blog post, not a novel, and I claim blog-etic license.)
Have you read a Cormac McCarthy? Did the weird punctuation bother you? Did you feel it changed and/or improved the tone of the book? Do you know of another author who does the same thing?
May you find your Muse.
Quotation images from Mohamed Ibrahim, clker.com
Confused Squirrel image by Kelly, clker.com