Saturday, October 7, 2017

Run free, Run-On Sentence! Run for as long as you like!

To my way of thinking the longer the sentence, the greater its artistic merit. Who but a black-hearted butcher would want to cut short the meandering of a sentence, bring its life to an unnatural end by slamming a full stop (period) into an exquisite stream of consciousness, and if that isn’t already enough of a crime, before it’s murdered, torture the sentence with punctuation such as hyphens, commas, colons, semi-colons – drivel for the sake of conformity.

I submit my argument in defense of the run-on sentence based on a precedent set in 2001 – Jonathon Coe vs. the Editor. Thanks to the survival of Mr. Coe’s 13,995 word sentence in The Rotter’s Club, novelists can all plead publishable as long as no one sentence in their manuscript exceeds 13,955 words and other requirements are met.

Ah, the grammar police are clamoring for evidence. As much as I’d like to accommodate, space constraints make it impossible to submit thirty-three pages of evidence in which not one full stop can be found until the end of the thirty-third page. Plus there’s the matter of the copyright. However, as every jury of publishers knows, the run-on sentence exists in several works of note. Therefore, I submit Falkner’s 1,288 word sentence in Absalom (published 1936) and the French writer Mathias √Čnard’s one-sentence novel of 517 pages as evidence the run-on sentence poses no threat to either literature or popular fiction.

I agree with Ed Park of the New York Times when he says “The very long sentence seems most expressive of life at its fullest and most expansive.” And I’m all for author’s like Cormac McCarthy (another master of the run-on sentence) who throws punctuation to the wind in his novel Blood Meridian. In order not to stagnate, art must always be evolving. But evolution requires experimentation, moving outside the box, stirring it up to create something unique.