Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Forget the Em-Dash, Go Semi-Colon

Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, writing about the beauty of the semi-colon.

Besides, the semicolon is supple as well. It may imply relatedness; it may imply contrast. With perfect clarity, it nimbly separates elements of a list that themselves contain elements of a list. For example, "These days, the semicolon exudes an aura of the fusty, the fastidious, and the defunct; of mildewed stacks, tight hair buns, and prissily sharpened pencils; of hesitancy, diffidence, and uncertainty, in contrast to the em-dash, which exudes a spirit of strength, flair, and decisiveness."

Full essay


Anonymous said...

Totally agree about the semi-colon; one of my favourite punctuations; however sadly coloured by its associations with covariant derivatives and worse; HTML & Microsoft Exel.

How are you doing?
Bizarrely enough, after you mentioned Colette I re-read Cheri (yes, good but still not my favourite; hope you'll post movie feedback) which led on to La Chatte & the Paris letters of Nancy Mitford & I (recklessly? but my frequent flyer miles have reached a use or lose point) got a return ticket to Paris where I'll try to focus on writing away from the excitement here...

Doc Martian said...

you know the meaning of the phrase "laying in the weeds". You'll get your chance... whenever something dumb happens... just bide your time, choose your targets... and when you get the opportunity to tell their wife how much you like them ogling your boobs... then whammo! i'm certain other things to screw them up will come into play as well. i mean what the hell... they made this all a pain in the butt instead of working for money for everyone and a comfortable work environment... so when there's a chance to stack a whole mess of packages on top of a bestseller that you know is gunna go apeshit... or you can order extra copies of a movie tie-in that you know is gunna flop... or you look at the two muzak discs available and you know one is really freakin' hideous... or when you write an anonymous letter as a 'customer' regarding the assistance of a manager (especially after you note a public incident between a manager and a customer.) remember, they made the rules, they chose the paradigm, they wanted it ugly... so don't get mad (after all... that just shortens your life-span) get even.


darkorpheus said...

Ovidia - Paris sounds wonderful. Reckless? Don't think so. Think: Spontaneity. Think the Parisian salons of the Belle Epoque. Think of the cafe where Sartre and Camus talked while they drank coffee and smoked. You are in the best place to write when you are in Paris. Or you can tke the opportunity to just soak in the culture, and then come back refresh and ready to create prose.

Remember to go visit Shakespeare & Co. and buy a book! Support that wonderful place.

Doc - What you're suggesting is sabotage. I'm just not going to do that to my company - no matter how screwed up they are. I have a sense of professional integrity even if they don't.

Doc Martian said...

dark: you're young yet. ;)

Doc Martian said...


ice kachang in dubai!

darkorpheus said...

Doc - Thanks for the ice kachang link - but no way am I going to spend good money on lousy ice kachang in Dubai. I know the difference.

Doc Martian said...

heh. you might go there sometime when you're going out to dinner anyhow. if the owners are from singapore... they might pride themselves on the authenticity of their food. hee hee hee... if nothing else... yah could socialize with the crabs there! ;)

Doc Martian said...

btw. the prices there ARE high. 40 dhs for spring rolls 800 dhs for a full course meal with a 100g crab. still... wander into the hyatt... find a decent place that doesn't charge you up the wazoo... have dinner... and on the way out... see if the ice kachang is worth a damn. i mean why should you not have emergency ais kacang resources on hand during 110 degree summers. being from singapore... they might even tell yah where to get the fixins in dubai if you're nice to them.

Doc Martian said...

The Market Café
Set in the lush indoor atrium garden, this restaurant serves an impressive culinary line-up from five open kitchens, with its innovative self-service concept. An all-day casual dining venue, the restaurant offers Italian pastas and salads, authentic Arabic cuisine, grill and rotisserie items, aromatic Indian favourites and delectable international desserts and pastries, including a chocolate fountain. A healthy bar concept features freshly squeezed juices, which are tasty and packed with vitamins and minerals.

like that place is priced 100 dhs and under for a meal.. so go there for dinner... and stop at peppercrab on your way out. hell... you might not even need to buy the ice kachang... just ask the proprietors where they get their rose syrup and agar agar... or if they know where to get some in dubai's markets. i'm a cheap bastard myself... i'll have something someplace ONCE... so i know what it tastes like... then make it at home... most of the time i'm able to make it better. my pad thai smoked the local restaurant's because i made it with wheat noodles (as per the original recipe for pad thai). I'm half tempted to go on an internet buying spree for the ingredients for ice kachang... except i've never had it before... so i've really got to go to los angeles before i do that.

Doc Martian said...




grass jelly could probably be procured from singaporean merchants...

they probably won't let you ship any durian though. :)

I mean after all... with a little planning... why SHOULDN'T you have the comforts of home. If you're buying them as ingredients wholesale... you might end up paying less per serving than you would at home going out.

is it worth that much work? well... i know if i were living somewhere far from southern california... i'd grow cilantro... and probably have to make my own tortillas... and take some chili powder with me and once in awhile send a little money home to get more. not that i wouldn't eat local most of the time... but comfort foods can be a key part of our psychological make-up... and without them... life becomes more arduous.

Doc Martian said...

ok. i'm obviously on a mission here... as much so I know where to get the stuff for ice kachang as you... however... i figure why shouldn't you profit from my research too... http://www.google.com/products?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&q=%22grass%20jelly%22&sa=N&tab=wf&um=1



have i missed any ingredients? you'd probably have to make yer own cendol too... i don't know enough about it to come up with the ingredients for it...

i count you a friend... and while i may tease you (I don't know you well enough yet to tease you mercilessly) i'll bend over backwards for you.


also, you might look at some sites in singapore for the ingredients... i mean even if national pride and good food sense manage to combine at that peppercrab place... its still probably hella expensive given the prices there. i know you can wait til' you're back home... but why not bring a little bit of home to you. after all, at this stage in your life, you can certainly afford a few creature comforts.


Stefanie said...

I'm learning to make friends with the semi-colon and the more I use it the more I like it.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Very cool! I was just talking about the semicolon, among other punctuation, when helping a friend with his resume the other day.