Sunday, May 04, 2008

Anarchy and Semicolons

A novel in which a punctuation mark could almost be called destiny Hemon’s semicolon jones seems to fill a deep spiritual need, on both a practical and a symbolic level. But the semicolon, in Hemon, takes on an even larger symbolic significance. It’s less a punctuation mark than a total aesthetic program. As punctuation, the semicolon is a tweener—an awkward Frankenstein of the comma (which it overpowers) and the period (which overpowers it) whose job is almost touchingly slight: It fuses clauses that would otherwise stand on their own as independent sentences; it makes hybrids of self-sufficient phrases; it imposes semantic dual citizenship. It’s the immigrant of punctuation marks.

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