Tag Archives: Writing

Interview with a semicolon

Gething:  Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Semicolon:  The pleasure’s all mine; thank you for having me.

Gething:  My interest is in the controversy you have stirred in the literary world.

Semicolon:  I’ve done no such thing; those who don’t use me seem to be causing all the fuss.

Gething:  That’s my point. Many modern writers, in particular Cormac McCarthy in his interview with Oprah, have called for your extinction. What did you do to create such a virulent reaction?

Semicolon:  Ask Mr. McCarthy; to my knowledge I did nothing.

Gething:  But you must have done something. He’s not calling for the elimination of the period or the question mark, or even the colon in certain instances.

Semicolon:  No, he seems to have targeted me in particular…and the exclamation mark; I don’t know what we did to deserve such enmity. My purpose seems quite clear—to connect two or more independent clauses more closely than ones separated by a period. I believe there’s still a place for that in the world.

Gething:  You do have some supporters, only—let’s be honest—not too many users today.

Semicolon:  Not true! A very lucid writer recently defended me in the New York Times.

Gething:  But he also quoted Vonnegut who said that semicolons are “transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing.”

Semicolon:  That’s a gross exaggeration. Henry James adored me; incidentally, many consider him the paradigm of subtlety; he was certainly more subtle than that Vonnegut fellow.

Gething:  Yes, but there is a modern sentiment that long sentences connected by semicolons obscure rather than make thoughts clearer. I sometimes feel that way about Henry James. Modern writers—journalists, novelists, poets—they tend to shun you.

Semicolon:  Well, what do you expect from poets?

Gething:  What do you mean?

Semicolon:  They are barbarians; they hardly use any punctuation at all.

Gething:  Doesn’t that suggest that meaning can be received without punctuation? Its absence might even create interesting double meanings.

Semicolon:  You mean vagueness and ambiguity. Perhaps that’s modern, too.

Gething:  McCarthy says, if you write clearly you don’t need more than a few punctuation marks.

Semicolon:  Then why use any at all? Why not write so clearly that periods and commas can be avoided as well? Isn’t punctuation simply a convention to help the reader comprehend the writer’s meaning? What if you presented these words without punctuation?

Gething:  I don’t know. Let’s see:

Then why use any at all Why not write so clearly that periods and commas can be avoided as well Isnt punctuation simply a convention to help the reader comprehend the writers meaning What if you presented these words without punctuation

A few awkward spots but I might get used to it with practice.

Semicolon:  I suppose you’ll be calling for the elimination of capital letters next.

Gething:  You sound bitter.

Semicolon:  I am bitter. I feel angry; I feel hurt; I feel betrayed. In speech we use pauses and intonation to convey meaning. Why can’t we rely on perfectly acceptable conventions of punctuation, including the semicolon, for the printed word?

Gething:  You make a good case, but it seems convention is dictated by usage not by argument. I fear for your longevity.

Semicolon:  Hmm!

Gething:  You know, my sister quit dating a guy who used semicolons; she said he never knew when to stop.

Semicolon:  Ha-ha.

Gething:  Just trying to make you feel better.

Semicolon:  Then start by using me more; only please, don’t abuse me!

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“I’m not sure I should be telling this…”

Cortázar's gravestone at Montparnasse Cemetery...

Cortázar’s gravestone at Montparnasse Cemetery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thus begins my story “Sabotage,” in which Julio Cortázar squares off with Michelangelo Antonioni. My little homage to these two artistic geniuses has just been published in the Barcelona Review. TBR is an exciting online literary magazine now in its 15th year of publication, offering contemporary writing in English, Spanish, Catalan and French. Check it out here:

The Barcelona Review

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No Place for Old Men, a parody

Signature of Cormac McCarthy

Signature of Cormac McCarthy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t get me wrong. I love Cormac McCarthy’s work. One of my favorite books is The Crossing, and Blood Meridian is an American classic. But in 2005 after I rushed out to buy No Country for Old Men, I couldn’t help it. Reading the crotchety sheriff’s monologue at the end, I felt–how shall I put this–somewhat victimized. I felt a parody growing in my brain, so I excised it by putting it down on paper.

What do they say, imitation is the greatest form of flattery? You decide. It’s now available as a free download on my Sample page.

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Coming soon… Under a False Flag

My debut novel, Under a False Flag, will be published in summer 2012 as a Kindle Direct Publishing e-book and in paperback from The Taciturn Press. Look for it on Amazon.com.

October, 1972. For two years the CIA has waged a secret war against the Marxist government of Chile. The Nixon administration, still mired in Vietnam and soon to be overwhelmed by the Watergate scandal, insists that Chile’s president, “that bastard” Salvador Allende, must go.

Rookie CIA officer Will Porter joins the covert war, operating under non-official cover. As nationwide strikes, paramilitary terrorism and bitterly contested elections bring Chile to the brink of civil war, Will learns from his hard-nosed boss, Deputy Station Chief Ed Lipton, just how far the CIA will go to achieve its objective. Soon, Will’s own game of deception results in grave and unanticipated consequences for his friends.

In the Graham Greene-like world of Under a False Flag, fear begets deception and deception begets cruelty.

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