This week’s TTT is a pleasingly vague one: books that need more X. I’m an English teacher and grammar pedant, so welcome to my list of books that need more punctuation. Thanks, as always, to The Broke and The Bookish, for hosting this weekly list extravaganza.
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
I’ve picked this book, but really any McCarthy novel would fit. Why does the man not use speech marks? I find his books basically impossible to read at the best of times, and the lack of proper punctation does not help.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Clearly, I am not going to criticise Maggie A, my chief goddess of literature. But, sometimes there are speech marks in The Handmaid’s Tale, and sometimes there aren’t, and if I have to invent an explanation for this to deliver to a class again, I might cry.
Hotel World by Ali Smith
There is a whole section of this book with no punctuation. None at all. As I recall, there also aren’t any spaces. WHY?
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
This is a bit of a cheat because the weird punctuation in this book (girls’ names not being given a capital letter) is actually very relevant to the plot of female subjugation. Also, have you read this book? It’s brilliant.
Broken Glass by Alain Mabankou
I was almost put off reading this book because it has no punctuation or even paragraphs. What I found was that, once I got into it, I didn’t really notice and it was an excellent read. I’ve just picked up another Mabanckou book, Memoirs of a Porcupine, from the library and seen that the style is the same. I am brave enought to cope with this now.
All recent poetry (yes, this is a broad generalisation)
Look, I’m all for messing with the form and pushing boundaries. But I can’t help but feel that one of these 21st century confessional poets (most of them, as far as I can see, women – look, everyone, I’m not sexist; I criticise girls too) decided not to bother with full stops or, you know, actual meaning, and now they’re all at it. People, you are not e.e. cummings, so just stop trying.
Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll
Don’t get me wrong: I love Meg and Mog. And so does my daughter, and that’s the main thing. But the lack of full stops is something I find disproportionately annoying. How am I supposed to know when to take a pause? Come on, Meg; sort it out.
Gertrude: The Cry by Howard Barker
Confession: I haven’t actually read this, but I was alerted to its existence (and reprehensible lack of punctuation) by Seb from my year 13 class (hi, Seb, if you’re reading). Obviously, plays are meant to be watched rather than read so the lack of punctuation here is less appalling, but still surely quite annoying; if I was an actor, I know I’d want to see semi-colons to help me get into character.
The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
I really want to be the kind of hipster who genuinely likes Faulkner (or can at least convincingly lie about it) but I just find his books impossible to read. The odd punctuation mark would go a long way, Mr Faulkner.
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
This is not actually Williams’ fault, but in my copy of the play there’s a formatting error which means there’s a double exclamation mark at one point and I. Just. Can’t. Cope.
Do you share my obsession with accurate use of the semi-colon? Perhaps you have another book that could be added to my list? Say “hi” in the comments; then I won’t feel so alone in the world.