Guardian Reading Group interview

I’ve been interviewed by Sam Jordison for his Guardian Reading Group piece on David Vann’s Caribou Island, and my own dislike of punctuation….

Caribou Island: where speech marks have gone extinct

Quotations marks, as in many recent novels, have gone awol in this month’s Reading Group choice, David Vann’s Caribou Island. Does removing them free prose up to become poetry, or is it harmful tinkering? writes Sam Jordison.

David Vann

“You do know something,” said James Ellroy when speaking to David Vann at the London Review Bookshop a few months ago. “You are a knowledgeable motherfucker. But you don’t use quotation marks. Which invalidates your career – and your life.”

I suspect these words may chime with a few contributors on last week’s Reading Group thread. One of the very first posts came from MythicalMagpie who asked:

“David Vann seems to be allergic to speech marks. What is it with modern authors and disappearing punctuation?”

A few other people registered that it had been causing them confusion in the early pages – and a few have noted confusion about why the technique should be employed at all. Personally, after stumbling a few times in the opening chapters, I slipped into the rhythm and stopped noticing. Or at least, I stopped noticing at the front of my consciousness, although I’m sure that the lack of speech marks changed the way the novel washed over me. On some level, it makes a difference. You may think it’s a small thing – but then, take it up with James Ellroy. These little marks can change your whole experience of reading a book. The question is: why?

Read the full piece here.


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