To risk sounding like an old schoolmarm: If everything is emphasized, nothing is. Pedestrian e-mails "kicked up a notch" or juiced up on bangers simply contribute to the noise.What? No love for Tom Wolfe?!
But that doesn't mean the exclamation point should be tossed to the scrap heap. In fact, a stable of contemporary writers is waging an ingenious campaign to redeem the devalued punctuation mark. I'm thinking of people like Rebecca Curtis, Sam Lipsyte, and Arthur Bradford, who have all been influenced by Denis Johnson, a modern master of Io. No curmudgeon, Johnson sprinkles exclamation points at a rate that would dizzy Elmore Leonard and with such ingenuity that they do capture a true, and nearly religious, "wonder." Most critically, they attend moments of fragile feeling rather than, say, wild interconnectedness. Moments that might easily escape notice (especially if you have your nose in a phone), and moments of quiet, too. Take Johnson on a woman's scream after receiving news of her husband's death: "What a pair of lungs!" Or Johnson on an MS patient in a hospital: "No more pretending for him!" Or Johnson on pink baby rabbits: "Little feet! Eyelids! Even whiskers!" That's better than any conference I've been to.
Aug 30, 2007
Should we adopt a new punctuation aesthetic in these heady days of digital writing? Jacob Rubin says, "No!!!"