Thursday, 20 May 2010
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.
-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.