The Sea Crimson

Thursday, 20 May 2010

the sea crimson

O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the Jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall i wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.

Trieste-Zurich-Paris, 1914-1921.


-James Joyce, Ulysses.

I've been thinking about punctuation. Not a seemingly exciting thing to be thinking about, but whenever I read Joyce's Ulysses, I'm reminded what can happen when you take it away from a narrative. In my mind, punctuation is authoritative (in both senses of the word). It tells you, as the reader, where to pause, where emphasis in meaning lies, which word is more or less important, how the author wants you to interpret the sentence. When it's suddenly not there, you have to decide by yourself and the narrative becomes much more subversive, because it is suddenly amorphous and multiple. I love this, it's an exercise I've been trying out, to see if I can do without punctuation in my writing. And it's even more enjoyable when I seem to be having conversations with editors lately about which comma goes where. Exciting, huh?

The wonderfully evocative image above is by tiavir. It captures perfectly the kind of images that run through my mind when I read the last pages of Ulysses.

14 comments:

marie said...

I've been reading ulysses recently (on and off, picking up and putting down, skipping from chapter to chapter - all very undisciplined i know) - i feel exactly the same :)

heleen said...

Another author who immediately sprung to mind when reading this, was Lewis Carroll. He had an almost frantic obsession with punctuation, revising the Alice-books myriad times throughout his entire life in order to achieve perfect punctuation!

Sundari said...

I find it extremely interesting, Hila. (hah! notice the coma is perfect). Ulysses is a book that I haven't read but am trying to work up to.

Christine said...

I love this post. I do some freelance proofreading on the side so I tend to be obsessed with punctuation. I still have to read Ulysses and the above excerpt makes me want to read it sooner rather than later. That photo is absolutely stunning!

inge marie paule said...

The author gives us a tremendous feeling of freedom for his language. It is art.

Make it Easy said...

what an interestingly beautiful image!

Maura said...

Gorgeous posting! You are inspiring me to revisit Ulysses, perhaps this time I'll make it through the whole book.

Rina said...

beautiful post! beautiful image!

Shirley said...

it's poetry.

i used to have to write poetry as part of my upper division high school courses and we studied all kinds of poetry against lovely natural backdrops like yosemite and lake tahoe. (great sources for inspiration and for mental freedom)

the only time i am constrained by the need to use "correct" punctuation is when perfect grammar is necessary to achieve my goals (such as in an academic paper or in business correspondence). once you know or have a good grasp of correct punctuation usage, i find it very freeing to give it up through expressive creative writing. it is almost like a written dance. if i want to create quickened steps, i write shorter sentences with very abrupt ends. if i want to drag it on, like a long ballad, i create long run on sentences. it's beautiful the art that one can create simply with words and punctuation.

very cool.

cinta / sepi / sayu said...

oh thank you for stopping by hila. i really love this new layout, beautiful... x

tywo said...

Beautiful.
Your blog is lovely,


LOVE!

Des said...

I think that's a fascinating topic. Punctuation can change everything.

Nicomi "Nix" Turner said...

Your blog is lovely. I just found it and all of your wonderful posts.

It is funny how so many will argue proper punctuation. The comma is enchanting...

hila said...

thanks for your thoughtful responses everyone, I enjoyed reading each and every one of them.