Weird Little Marks–Again

This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Richard L. 1 week, 3 days ago.

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  • 09 Jul 2017 at 11:23 am #9679


    John Grisham was recently interviewed by Stephen Usery of about his most recent book, Camino Island. At the end of the interview the conversation turned to a list of “rules for writers” that the fictional character Bruce Cable expresses in the book. Grisham then offers his own opinions.

    Chapter 16: I share the opinion that you should set off dialogue with quotation marks. Do you think Cormac McCarthy should be the only person allowed to omit quotation marks for dialogue?

    Grisham: Yes, Cormac should be the only person allowed to do that. I think he started it. He has his own rules for grammar and writing. He’s Cormac. He can get by with that; the rest of us can’t.”

    I believe that Grisham is in error about Cormac starting the omission of quotation marks, but Cormac might well be the only living writer able to get by with it.

    The interview can be found at:

    • This topic was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by  wesmorgan.
    09 Jul 2017 at 2:07 pm #9681

    Rick Wallach

    If I am not mistaken McCarthy said somewhere that McKinlay Kantor started it and Cormac picked it up from him.

    09 Jul 2017 at 2:15 pm #9682


    He certainly didn’t invent it. James Joyce and Samuel Beckett come to mind. I do agree that Cormac is the only living author who can get away with it, until he isn’t. That is to say, it’s almost a rule now that McCarthy is the only one who should do it, but rules were meant to be broken. To do it without inviting comparison to McCarthy would be quite a trick, though.

    I think the most important thing to be gleaned from Cormac’s lack of quotation marks and other familiar punctuation is that it stems from the same place as all editing, an attempt at doing away with anything superfluous. But when Cormac edits, he questions even the rules themselves. I often get the sense when reading McCarthy that entire sentences may have once existed in certain places, the sort of sentences that most writers are somewhat “trained” to include, but that Cormac recognized them as non-essential and excised them. I had that feeling when I read his recent essay, “The Kekulé Problem”. The opening line feels more like the first line of a second paragraph of an essay rather than a first. Most writers would probably start out with some broad opening statement, but Cormac just goes right into it.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by  mannym.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by  mannym.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by  mannym.
    10 Jul 2017 at 1:45 am #9687

    Richard L.

    Yes. Oprah asked him about it and he brought up ANDERSONVILLE and Kantor’s Pulitzer Prize. Some of McCarthy’s style is attributable to James Jones’ FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, another Pulitzer winner as well–but Jones used quotation marks.

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