Who Uses Quotations Anymore?

Submitted By mcgovern27
Words: 1129
Pages: 5

Who Uses Quotations Anymore? Nowadays, literature has seemingly lost its popularity. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, nearly half of Americans do not read books at all, and those who do, average only six per year (Shriver). You would think that literary writers would be bending over backwards to attempt to win over readers and make their work straightforward and inviting, but they are not. Someone must have issued a memo stating that cool writers do not use quotations in dialogue anymore, and sent it to authors as different as James Frey, Evan S. Connell, Ward Just and others. Showing that the use of quotes in literature is faddish, vague, eventless, and effortful and proving that quotes themselves may not be as small as they appear on the page. By leaving it up to the reader to decide which lines are spoken and which are not, the quote-less fad fuels the widespread idea that popular fiction is fun while literature is challenging.
But, is the style always elegant? From Susan Minot's 1998 novel "Evening": “...But you see I've just been at dinner -- he glanced over his shoulder, then lurched forward -- in Boston with my great old friends -- the Beegins -- and I've only just heard of your mother's -- he pressed his chin into his chest -- misfortune and wanted to pay my respects. All those dashes simply replace one form of clutter with another.” (Shriver). What effect is this quote-free format supposed to have? Ideally, a minimalism that lends text a subtlety and sophistication. Cormac McCarthy could quite possibly be the most responsible for popularizing this custom. A passage from his 2005 novel “No Country for Old Men” illustrates this: “You could head south to the river. Yeah. You could Less open ground Less ain’t none He turned, still holding the handkerchief to his forehead. No cloud cover in sight.” (Shriver) To McCarthy’s credit, he has at least carved out his own style, which other writers have occasionally mocked. It is hard to imagine that his riveting, atmospheric novels would have any lower literary quality without the proper punctuation. It may be perceived like this: “we don’t hear any shouting; no one screams. Reading heated dialogue without the quotation marks is like watching chase scenes in “The Bourne Supremacy” with the sound off.” (Shriver) It just doesn’t quite have the same effect. McCarthy doesn’t mind insulting literary giants either. He spent most of his time with scientists rather than with literaries. Aside from writing, he separated himself from writers, and didn’t like to speak about his own work. He had this to say about Henry James and Marcel Proust: “I don’t understand them...To me, that’s not literature. A lot of writers that are considered good I consider strange.” (McMillan). James Frey is another author whose writing style is similar to that of McCarthy in that he uses a lack of punctuation in his literature. A big part of his literature titled “Pieces” is the fact that he does not use quotation marks to indicate conversation. Instead, he starts a new line each time. This gave his book somewhat of a confusing writing style that allowed the reader to better understand his version of the events. Frey’s writing style also includes capitalizing nouns randomly and repeating words throughout his text. “The Young Man came to the Old Man seeking counsel. I broke something, Old Man. How badly is it broken? It's in a million little pieces. I'm afraid I can't help you. Why? There's nothing you can do. Why? It can't be fixed. Why? It's broken beyond repair. It's in a million little pieces.” (Good Reads). Michelle Huneven omits quotations in her writing in an effort to separate herself from other novelists that maybe in her eyes aren’t as good. Skipping the quotation marks is a way for Huneven to show that her novels are not too accessible to just the ordinary reader. The readers must be willing to try to