The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘punctuation’

Curb Your Enthusiasm

June 3, 2014 | by

trilby

An illustration for George du Maurier’s Trilby, serialized in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, July 1894

In a recent Science of Us post, Melissa Dahl investigates the evolution of the exclamation mark. As one grammarian tells her, “Exclamation points are becoming the standard after salutations and happy or eager statements such as ‘I’m looking forward to seeing you’ ... It almost seems mandatory in e-mail.”

While few can deny that an unexclamated text reads as terse today, the overuse of the exclamation mark dates to far before the dawn of Seinfeld, let alone the proliferation of electronic communiques. Most recently, I was struck by George du Maurier’s promiscuous use of punctuation in his 1894 novel, Trilby

To the extent that anyone talks about Trilby today, it is usually because the book was the genesis of the term svengali; because said Svengali is an egregiously anti-Semitic caricature; or just because the author was the grandfather of Daphne. A century ago, it was known for its depiction of bohemian Paris and the portrait of its title character, a sexually liberated but pure-hearted Englishwoman who falls prey to the sinister machinations of Svengali.

Svengali—who does indeed practice mesmerism, as well as speaking a really-hard-to-read German-accented French that is written out phonetically—spends a lot of the novel monologuing in a villainous manner: Read More »

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What We’re Loving: Strokes, Sex Appeal, Splenetic Surfers

March 28, 2014 | by

just-a-sigh

Emmanuelle Devos in a still from Just a Sigh, 2013.

If you saw American Hustle with your parents, as I did last Christmas, you will have noticed something that set it apart from pretty much every Hollywood movie of the last few years. I refer to the sex appeal of Amy Adams. Her hotness was a blast from the past, and not just because of the disco décolletage. For some reason, Hollywood doesn’t really do sexy these days, at least not in female roles—and certainly not compared to the French. Just think of Lola Créton in Goodbye, First Love or Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue Is the Warmest Color—both playing teenagers with a soulful teenage horniness that’s taboo in American movies—or Marion Cotillard as a double amputee in Rust and Bone, or best and most recent of all, Emmanuelle Devos, the fifty-year-old star of Just a Sigh, who’s never looked better (which is saying something), and who smolders so intensely for Gabriel Byrne that the poor guy just sort of disappears off the screen. Until the actual love scenes, you hardly notice: this is a one-woman show. —Lorin Stein

Rodrigo de Souza Leão died shortly after the publication of All Dogs Are Blue, an autobiographical novel detailing his time in a Rio de Janeiro mental asylum. Souza Leão uses a kind of language his schizophrenia has taught him, creating a poetry that’s at one moment absurd—his two recurring hallucinations are Rimbaud and Baudelaire—and the next heartbreakingly self-aware. (“Is it the kiss of Judas? Will I betray my father in my madness?”) It’s an innovative, original book, though not an easy one to read. But then, as Souza Leão writes, “The truth can be a sloppy invention and still convince everyone.” —Justin Alvarez

When will spring arrive‽ Isn’t all this cold weather lovely though⸮ I love it—I hope it never ends؟ If you’ve been feeling that we have a lack of punctuation marks at our disposal—we don’t have a way to represent, for instance, an ironic question—then why not revive the obsolete irony mark⸮ It has a long history of failure in mainstream typography that you can read all about in Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks, by Keith Houston. But if you believe that to point out irony to an intelligent reader would defeat its purpose wholesale, perhaps you would prefer the percontation point, which was invented by the English printer Henry Denham in the nineteenth century—it’s meant as a visual indication of a rhetorical question. Or the interrobang, which combines the feeling of the exclamation point with the function of the question mark. Or my favorite, the love point, used to denote deep affection. —Anna Heyward

Geoff Dyer was not killed, or even, apparently, seriously impaired by his recent stroke, and he writes buoyantly about the experience for the London Review of Books. Ten days into his new life in Venice Beach, his vision went weird and his coordination abandoned him, and he stumbled about half-blind in perfect weather. His is a kind of coming-of-age story that reminds you how many such stories make up a life, whatever your age. —Zack Newick Read More »

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Two Shades of Wine, and Other News

September 26, 2013 | by

50ShadesWine

  • “Wine plays an important role in Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve always had a penchant for good wine, so combining two of my passions … was a natural extension of the series.” The foremost entrepreneur of our times, E. L. James, is launching a line of wines. Soon to be received by anyone who has the ill fortune to invite me to dinner.
  • This banned-books tote—which features fifty banned titles—is a striking reminder that goes beyond Banned Books Week.
  • University of Toronto professor David Gilmour has, not shockingly, stirred up controversy by stating in an interview that he is “not interested in teaching books by women.” And, “I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall.” And, just in case that wasn’t clear, “What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys … F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys.”
  • Lolita, Twilight, and eight other best-sellers that were initially rejected by publishers.
  • What hath the Romans wrought? A concise history of the hashtag.

 

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The Fearsome Captain Underpants, and Other News

September 25, 2013 | by

Captain Underpants

  • Herewith, the most-challenged books of 2013. Leading the pack is Captain Underpants.
  • Virgule, pilcrow, and other extinct punctuation.
  • “You can imagine a modern-day Charlotte Brontë writing embarrassing confessional scenes about masturbation, Lena Dunham–style, or a bit like Sheila Heti—and not understanding why other people found it all a bit much.” Moira Redmond on sex scenes that might have been
  • Lady Antonia Fraser has resigned from the Man Booker advisory committee following their announcement that the prize is going international.
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