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.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The oil-drenched sea in which the seed for a novel was planted

I was reading the news a few days ago (I must be a masochist) and I saw where the President invited American manufacturers to recommend ways the government could cut regulations and make it easier for companies to get their projects approved. As my eyes moved further down the news report in Washington Post, I saw this on the list of self-serving recommendations: BP wants to make it easier to drill for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico by reducing how often companies must renew their leases.

I gritted my teeth. I’m still gritting them, particularly since yesterday, April 20th, was the seventh anniversary of the devastating BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I remember that date as well as I remember the dates on which people dear to me died. A little melodramatic, you say? This picture may change your mind. That's a sea bird, barely alive when that picture was taken.

Photo: Huffington Post
Now imagine what was under the surface. Years of scientific observation of the Gulf following the spill have shown what that was. From a 2015 NBC report:

  • "Nearly five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a new report says that creatures like dolphins, sea turtles and fish still haven't fully recovered.
  • Bottle-nose dolphins were found dead on the Louisiana coast in 2014 at four times historic rates, according to "Five Years and Counting: Gulf Wildlife in the Aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster," released on Monday by the National Wildlife Federation.
  • Fish including mahi mahi and red snapper, coral colonies, and white and brown pelicans are still struggling. Around 32 percent of laughing gulls have died as a result of the oil spill, the National Wildlife Federation said.
  • Between 27,000 and 65,000 Kemp's ridley sea turtles died during the oil spill and that the number of nests discovered every year since has gone down."


And BP wants to continue drilling, drilling, drilling. Climate warming and the resulting acidification of the oceans because of increasingly high levels of carbon in the atmosphere aside, what guarantees do we have that there will never be more oil spills?

They say the seed for a book is often planted in a significant moment. The one I’m writing now was planted on April 20, 2010 with the event that rocked everyone who gives a damn about the health of our oceans. The seed didn’t germinate immediately. It was a while before it began to sprout and the story grew into two branches - one in 1802 and the other in 2010. Kate, the main character in the 2010 section, isn't anything like me. I'm a creative sort. Kate is a marine and atmospheric scientist, but she speaks for me here as she remembers her reaction to the BP Oil Spill:

"She had not been able to erase the images of the birds and sea turtles that looked as though they had been dipped in tar from her mind. The innocent victims of corruption, greed and the thirst for power. The men on that platform whose lives had been extinguished in a violent explosion of flame had been innocent victims too. Oh God, it was horrifying. It had brought her to tears. Soon those tears had been replaced by a numbing fury that had propelled her into inexhaustible action.

NOAA’s response had been quick. She’d dropped everything and volunteered to help. The Gulf now took precedence over everything else. What they found was bad. The dispersants hadn’t helped. They’d only added to the unholy mess that was a death warrant for thousands of marine species. The first that came to her mind was the dolphins, those gentle, friendly creatures with the same level of intelligence as humans."