12 Comments

  1. Ha ha, … yes.
    At first I was taking this in a different direction, and mildly scoffing that I don’t follow this comic and so couldn’t identify the speaker by name anyway.
    But then had to acknowledge the point, as I can’t tell which of the drawn characters it is that is speaking and I can’t name. Of course.
    Not to mention the meta-consciousness business.

  2. No one can see the mustache I’m growing when I wear a mask either. They’ll have to wit until the pandemic is over…

  3. C W A A

    I too thought of balloons, Mark, but that is not how The New Yorker rolls.

    Now, on the issue of attribution, I don’t like books or stories that don’t attribute dialogue well and leave me confused about who is speaking. And Cormac McCarthy? Don’t get me started about him. I won’t even. Tried it once and will not ever again. Call me when they’ve released a special edition with quotation marks and attributions.

  4. SBill, I guess you would have (perhaps did) hated some practices previously followed by the New Yorker. The pieces in Talk of the Town were not signed or attributed. Big pieces, both fiction and non, had the writer’s name at the end, after the last lines of the last column. There was not – still is not – a masthead, in the sense of an in-publication listing of editorial staff. That last one bothered some people so much that a satirical publication took to printing “Masthead of the New Yorker”, which I think tried to be mostly accurate and not just funny made up names.

    The Continental style of using dashes instead of turned commas (or quotation marks) for dialog in fiction is uncommon but not unknown in Anglo-American writing / publishing . I might better have just said “English language” as it’s quite common from Irish writers, from Joyce himself of course on thru “At Swim-Two-Birds”, “The Ginger Man” and others. In the U.S. I think of what’s his name (Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem for a Dream) and William Gaddis.

    You might especially appreciate getting frustrated by the techniques in “J. R.”, the later of Gaddis’s two Great American Novel outings. The dialog is marked by dashes, and often the speaker is only indirectly identified (by being mentioned as present at the beginning of a scene, or by speech tics). There are no marked chapter or section breaks, but a series of mostly-dialog scenes with transitional omniscient POV passages giving physical setting descriptions – tho still without vertical whitespace..

  5. Back when I was in grammar school, for English class one of the kids wrote a story which was entirely in dialog and entirely in quotes, with no direct indication of who said what. It was cleverly crafted and actually worked very well. You quickly picked up the characters names and knew who was speaking. I don’t remember more than a line or two of it. I suppose the author is a published writer by now.

  6. Grawlix, in the one above, no. But we’ve had some show up on CIDU where the key to figuring out the joke was in figuring out who was speaking.

  7. Mitch4, I hate anything that gets in the way of me accessing the story. Anything that takes me out of the story is an impediment. Every time a writer takes the reader out of the story, that’s an opportunity for the reader to put the piece down and never pick it up again.

  8. SingaporeBill, that’s very similar to my feeling. The only time I want to be conscious of the style of writing is when I stop to appreciate some beautiful usage.

  9. I actually agree with both of you in principle, but may disagree in classifying whether some formal play is decorative time-wasting or turns out to be essential to the narrative in some way.

    Also there is room for differences of standard practice, that out of context may feel like an imposition. That’s how I would see the use of dashes instead of turned-commas (the ” style of quotation marks) for dialogue in fiction. It’s just a matter of which you saw more of, or in books that were influential for you, as you were growing up as a reader.

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