October 21, 2011

Writing with dashes.

Do you like dashes? I do. There are certain ways of using dashes that I particularly admire. Rather than try to explain what I like so much, I'll give you an example. This is from the Charles Dickens novel, "Bleak House." The narrator is encountering the mother of a child who has just fallen down a flight of stairs.
Mrs. Jellyby, whose face reflected none of the uneasiness which we could not help showing in our own faces as the dear child's head recorded its passage with a bump on every stair — Richard afterwards said he counted seven, besides one for the landing — received us with perfect equanimity.
Doesn't that sentence make you feel like diagramming it... just for fun?

I like sentences like that — I think — because I like conversational side roads especially when they get you back to the main road. That relates to the way I feel about blogging. For example, the reason I was out there in Project Gutenberg searching for "Africa" on a webpage that contained the entire text of what is — in paperback — a 544-page book is that — like everyone else who checked Memeorandum today — I got waylaid by a NY Post story titled "Florida banker's wife left family to join Wall Street protesters."
A married mother of four from Florida ditched her family to become part of the raggedy mob in Zuccotti Park -- keeping the park clean by day and keeping herself warm at night with the help of a young waiter from Brooklyn.

“I’m not planning on going home,” an unapologetic Stacey Hessler, 38, told The Post yesterday.

“I have no idea what the future holds, but I’m here indefinitely. Forever,” said Hessler, whose home in DeLand sits 911 miles from the tarp she’s been sleeping under.
Hessler — who ironically is married to a banker — arrived 12 days ago and planned to stay for a week, but changed her plans after cozying up to some like-minded radicals, including Rami Shamir, 30, a waiter at a French bistro in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
Hey, check the dashes: "— who ironically is married to a banker —." Ironic? Or not ironic at all? It's just what you'd expect if you were reading a novel about a woman married to a banker. Stacey Hessler immediately called to mind Mrs. Jellyby. Remember Mrs. Jellyby? She's a minor character in "Bleak House." Here's a summary/spoiler:
[Mrs. Jellyby] resolutely devotes every waking hour to the “Borrioboola-Gha venture.” The reader never discovers the details of the endeavor except that it involves the settlement of impoverished Britons among African natives with the goal of supporting themselves through coffee growing.

Mrs. Jellyby is convinced that no other undertaking in life is so worthwhile, or would solve so many problems at a stroke. Dickens’s interest is not in the project, however, but rather in Mrs. Jellyby, who is so wedded to her work that she has no time for her several children, with the exception of Caddy, a daughter she has conscripted as her secretary. Ink-spattered Caddy puts in nearly as many hours as her mother in the daily task of answering letters and sending out literature about Borrioboola-Gha.

Caddy, however, has come to hate the very word “Africa” or any word that has the remotest suggestion of causes. For her, causes simply mean the ruin of family life. Mrs. Jellyby’s husband eventually becomes suicidal and, though surviving despair, is last seen in the book with his head resting despondently on a wall.

In the book’s postscript, we discover that the Borrioboola-Gha project failed after the local king sold the project’s volunteers into slavery in order to buy rum. Mrs. Jellyby quickly found another cause to occupy her time, “a mission with more correspondence than the old one,” thus providing a happy ending for a permanent campaigner.
Like a sentence with well-deployed dashes, it all comes together in the end.

73 comments:

AllenS said...

I like, commas. Sometimes, I'll use them, even when they might not be needed. --

Martha said...

I fear the married mother of four took leave of more than her banker husband and four kids to take up residence in Zuccotti Park-- like her mind/sanity.

traditionalguy said...

I love Bleak House. Only Dickens could make a 1000 pager fun to read.

I believe Mrs. Jelliby was the first take down of a committed social do gooder in literature.

Dickens seriously did not like a woman who abandoned her children.

MarkG said...

Yeah, dashes.

Hessler found what every 38 year-old woman wants who married a banker ten years her senior: a 30 year-old lover.

traditionalguy said...

Dasher was also the name of Santa's second reindeer. They say he started the use of homing dashes in communicating with the North Pole base.

J said...

Dickens..on Galthouse? Hah hah.

Your blog, your commenters--nay your existence--is the complete mockery of Charlie Dickens' writings and political themes. BleakHouse itself--what did CD say about the legal profession? Hint--not anything positive.

(don't pretend to have read any Dickens Byro the druggie-troll.You haven't.)

Curious George said...

I love dashes!!!!!!!!!

Coketown said...

I love dashes when used as you identified from Bleak House: interjecting with parenthetical information. They are an elegant way to interject with supplementary information while also playing with the rhythm and flow of the parent sentence. I use them a lot in my fiction.

I hate dashes when used as you actually used them ("--I think--"), in lieu of commas when commas are more than sufficient!

AJ Lynch said...

Will Mrs. Hessler be invited to any White House dog and pony shows that try and depict how the OWS crowd is very representative of real Americans?

ps. I bet we will soon learn the lady has mental problems.

edutcher said...

We use dashes - and I'm the worst here - in place of parentheses, commas (thank you, AllenS) and various other more appropriate methods of punctuation whose usage we really don't want to take the trouble of looking up.

Translation: we're lazy.

Ann Althouse said...

Doesn't that sentence make you feel like diagramming it... just for fun?

You can take the professor out of the classroom, but...

PS I think I like Mrs Jellyby a whole lot more than Mrs Hessler. Mrs Jellyby isn't bad, just obsessed.

I don't know we can say the same about Mrs Hessler.

Carol_Herman said...

I always liked ... 3 dots. To two dashes.

Plus, back in the old days you couldn't use the word 'fuck.' And, you couldn't have sex scenes, either.

Heck, there was a movie with Audrey Hepburn and William Holden ... in a taxicab scene. Where he asks her if she was a virgin. And, the movie got banned.

If the lesson was economic ... then getting banned is what produces revenues.

Dickens? Not so much.

Did you know when Napoleon's nephew was invited to take over france ... He made Paris beautiful by knocking down all those alleys ... that were made famous by Victor Hugo, around Notre Dame.

But as long as you don't go to look ... the portraits painted by Les Miserable are treated as if they still exist.

Browndog said...

I like conversational side roads especially when they get you back to the main road.

Spot on. Me too.

Shouting Thomas said...

Yes, Bleak House is also one of my favorite novels.

Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce is forever etched into my brain as the ultimate lawsuit that exists to feed generations of lawyers.

Until I went to work for lawyers, I did not understand just how dense and deep was the food chain that lawyers keep fed... clerks, secretaries, process servers, etc. Lawyers bored me to death and kept me well fed.

The realization that this was the case changed my outlook on Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce.

What's the old saying: "In good times, lawyers make money on mergers & acquisitions. In bad times, lawyers make money on bankruptcies."

As much as I once hated the lawyers, over time I learned to hate the do gooders even more. Many of the lawyers became good friends who shared with me the absurdity of the whole mess that is the human condition in which we are all trapped.

AllenS said...

Too many ellipses drives me crazy -- finish your sentence -- complete your thought!!!!

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
new york said...

I love this althouse blog because it challenges me to think about things so differently, and to really break down my thoughts and analyze all the little bits. What can I possibly say about the New York Post and its credibility. What can I possibly say about this article and its approach. What can I possibly say about the portrayal of women in the media. i think I will just walk away on this one, I've got more enjoyable things scheduled for today; a root canal and then a wake.

AllenS said...

Guess who shows up and ...

EDH said...

Althouse's Dash infatuation.

But can she "handle the loves scenes"?

Mary Beth said...

Heck, there was a movie with Audrey Hepburn and William Holden ... in a taxicab scene. Where he asks her if she was a virgin. And, the movie got banned.

"The Moon is Blue" was only banned in Boston and did not star Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn and Holden were in "Sabrina" a few years later.

J said...

Dickens---OWS supporter (at least..from a distance).
And hater of urban capitalists. As Orwell knew.

redux!

Coketown said...

I HATE ellipses when used to suggest a character's dialogue is trailing off or stuttering. "I...I don't know! It's too much to think about..."

It makes me think the quote was condensed, and I wonder what was originally there. But it's complete, and the author is just being a lazy jackass.

stewati said...

Dickens described Mrs. Jellyby's work as "Telescopic Philanthropy". How totally terrific is that?

mrs whatsit said...

I love dashes and have recently found -- to my delight -- that I can often get away with them in the highly formal legal writing I am paid to do. As for Mrs. Jellyby, she's one of the great characters in literature and sadly, not all that fictional -- I have a liberal/lefty do-gooder friend who's just like her.

Mary Beth said...

It sounds as though they only got her side of the story and did not contact her family. I would not be surprised if information had been left out or embellished.

Ann Althouse said...

"I HATE ellipses when used to suggest a character's dialogue is trailing off or stuttering. "I...I don't know! It's too much to think about...""

I use the ellipsis when I'm trying to get you to "hear" a pause for effect.

I use the dash to clear the writing on either side of the parenthetical out of the way visually.

One is auditory and one is visual.

That's my approach.

A comma, by contrast, is just the correct punctuation, the default.

I'm not sure how much other people get a visual and an auditory effect when they read, but that's what I'm trying to make happen with punctuation.

Richard said...

Shelby Foote, the author of the definitive three volume history of the United States Civil War, was the master of the dash. There are literally hundreds of them in those three volumes. If you want to know how to properly use the dash, consult those books.

Shouting Thomas said...

An obsession with punctuation is a very lawyerly thing.

I can remember my early days with law firms, when my richer than God employer sent me to a full week of classes to learn their document styles.

I could barely stay awake.

But, I remember the rules quite clearly to this day.

J said...

Dashes might work in Lit., though I doubt Frau Doktor Althouse allows dashes in her students' latest epics on the 2nd Amendment.

edutcher said...

Carol_Herman said...

I always liked ... 3 dots. To two dashes.

Ellipsis versus M.

M will be devastated.

And send for Miss Moneypenny.

Plus, back in the old days you couldn't use the word 'fuck.' And, you couldn't have sex scenes, either.

"Good authors who once knew better words,

Now only use four letter words".

Did you know when Napoleon's nephew was invited to take over france ... He made Paris beautiful by knocking down all those alleys ... that were made famous by Victor Hugo, around Notre Dame.

He also turned Mexico in Hell on earth, supported the Confederacy, blundered his way into the Franco-Prussian War and began the establishment of French Indo-China.

PS Charlie Dickens?

jimspice said...

Tech alert: I examined the page source of this page to see how blogger handles the presentation of the "dash." There are actually several types of dashes, most notably the "em dash" and the "en dash" (so called because of the letters with which they share a width). Modern HTML requires that you encode them with unicode, to differentiate between the two as well as the "hyphen" and the "minus sign." Blogger correctly does so. Nice job Blogger.

And just out of curiosity to see how blogger handles text vs. unicode in comments: —

Nope. My code tag was rejected.

J said...

Foote used dashes? BS. Sparingly at best-. Another writer you never read, Byro-Richie, the stoner wicca troll. Foote 's massive opus on the CW would be far too much for your illiterate druggie brain.

TosaGuy said...

I don't know what will happen with this FL couple, but I hope Florida divorce law doesn't punish the dad if divorce ends up happening.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Did someone take J away and replace it with a human being? I've seen several comments lately where he failed to insult someone in a vile manner.

Coketown said...

I use the ellipsis when I'm trying to get you to "hear" a pause for effect.

I use the dash to clear the writing on either side of the parenthetical out of the way visually.


I would need an example of that pause effect. In my writing, if I want a reader to 'hear' a pause, I'll write the passage so that its tone suggests a pause would exist in the dialogue. I don't tell the reader where the pause would exist specifically. If the goal is to attain a certain mood, the reader will craft that mood himself.

Your approach for dashes is similar to mine, but I only make a point of clearing the parenthetical away from the rest of the sentence visually when the parenthetical stands on its own, and could be considered on its own, but is supplementary to the larger sentence. So from the first Bleak House quote, the parenthetical can be considered on its own but is still relevant to the sentence. For something like "I think," I would use commas just because I don't think its worth considering on its own as itself. It affects the clause preceding it, but nothing more.

But you have a captivating writing voice, so don't change anything too hastily!

AllenS said...

A comma, is all the pause you need.

Coketown said...

I also saw the trailer for the BBC's production of Bleak House while watching the BBS production of Cranford, which was a gem! A perfect blend of satirizing the idiosyncrasies and absurdities of Victorian society while also celebrating its most redeeming qualities. Perfectly acted, excellent product. I recommend it to anyone who likes Victorian novels.

I added Bleak House to the queue. And I did love the novel.

J said...

What's that Tyrone wiccan ? Yr not human. YOU're an occultist queer ,Byro Brawley. Remember Crowley boy? (actually even Uncle Al cambridge boy was too much for you). You're a plagiarist and liar, without even an AA. You never Dickens--indeed you never read a book in your life. Crawl back under yr rock joto

edutcher said...

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Did someone take J away and replace it with a human being? I've seen several comments lately where he failed to insult someone in a vile manner.

It's early.

Richard Dolan said...

"Doesn't that sentence make you feel like diagramming it... just for fun?"

Anyone who had nuns in grammar school, back in the day, will probably have a different view about diagramming sentences.

Roger J. said...

I always enjoyed diagramming a sentence--do they even teach that anymore? or has it gone the way of long hand/cursive writing?

and since it has been so long, how was a dash treated in diagramming?

ricpic said...

There's really no other way to convey a thought within a thought than by the use of dashes. Although a thought within a thought or a thought that relates to a thought is not quite right. Parentheses can be used for that. An aside. Dashes are the only way to throw an aside into a sentence without logjamming it.

maria horvath said...

We musn't forget the seemingly unrestrained use of the Dash (and Capital Letters and Exclamation Points) by Miss Emily Dickinson:

Wild Nights -- Wild Nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile -- the Winds
To a Heart in port --
Done with the Compass --
Done with the Chart.

Rowing in Eden --
Ah! the Sea!
Might I but moor -- Tonight --
In Thee!

mrs whatsit said...

"A comma, is all the pause you need."

In a sentence that short, I agree. But in the complex Dickensian sentence Ann quoted, the dashes provide essential space that opens up the whole sentence. Had Dickens used commas instead, the sentence would have looked like an impenetrable jungle (I agree, Ann, that the function performed by dashes is more visual than auditory.) And what a sentence! If I could ever write a sentence so masterful -- and so funny -- I'd frame it and hang it on the wall.

As for diagramming sentences, I learned it from nuns in the 60s, thought it was great fun, and couldn't believe it when my children's public school never taught it to them at all. It's not just a grammar exercise; diagramming a complex sentence teaches lessons of clarity, logic, and precision of thought.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'll bet that The Hours--a piece of cinematic garbage if there ever was one--is this woman's favorite film.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm not sure how much other people get a visual and an auditory effect when they read, but that's what I'm trying to make happen with punctuation.

Same.

And I don't care if that effect is created by following the rules or not.

ddh said...

For example, the reason I was out there in Project Gutenberg searching for "Africa" on a webpage that contained the entire text of what is — in paperback — a 544-page book is that — like everyone else who checked Memeorandum today — I got waylaid by a NY Post story titled "Florida banker's wife left family to join Wall Street protesters."

Dashes exist for a reason. Like other punctuation, they ought to help the reader understand the writer's thoughts, but four sets of dashes in one sentence? You would have been clearer had you dropped all the dashes and set off the phrase "like everyone else. . ." with commas because you weren't changing the point. As Miss Grundy told us--Oh, look! A squirrel!

Pastafarian said...

Hey J -- thanks for joining the conversation, almost civilly, for while, at least.

There are reasonable people here happy to discuss issues with you, and respect your opinion while disagreeing with it, if you can get through a comment without some sort of "wicca LDS this" or "satanist perp" that.

When the topic is punctuation, and you find yourself reaching for over-the-top invective and insult, you might want to take a long, calming, deep breath and a look in the mirror. You know?

David-2 said...

I like dashes because I know the difference between an em-dash and an en-dash and a hyphen and I know when to use each.

ricpic said...

What can I possibly say about the New York Post and its credibility.

That it beats the New York Times and its credibility.

t-man said...

I use a lot of dashes in my legal writing, but I try to write in a more conversational style than most other lawyers.

Are dashes crisp, though? Althouse has expressed her preference for crisp writing, but dashes lead to meandering.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

I would have used parentheses instead of dashes where Dickens used them. I'm majorly into parentheses. A thing about dashes is that I find myself often wanting to use some other sort of punctuation with them (in some non-standard way), or they don't feel right to me. But because dashes are mostly alien to my style, that too happens so rarely, it would be more than a deal of bother gathering together all the times I wanted to throw other bits of punctuation about the dashes, as would be necessary for me to understand how I feel they should be used. Colons I very rarely use, but they usually seem just right when I do. When I was younger (and more 19th-century in my tastes) I was very fond of semicolons; I don't seem to have as much use for them now.

Gabriel Hanna said...

I'm with tradguy on Bleak House. It's my favorite Dickens novel though I think Great Expectations is a better novel.

mrs whatsit said...

t-man, that's exactly what I like about dashes -- they allow for crisp meandering.

John Burgess said...

I use dashes as well as other parenthetical devices in my writing.

The least visible (and thus, the one that sets things off the least) is the comma. Dashes keep the sentence moving, but are more obvious than commas.

Parentheses are more like a wall: they stop the eye momentarily. Useful, but not as flowing as dashes.

The harshest of the lot are brackets, square or angled. They really call out their contents and jerk the reader by the collar to insist they be seen.

Because I do extensive quoting in most of my writing, I use ellipses, both leading and trailing. I will also use them when I want to leave a thought unclosed, a list unfinished.

Because I care about typography – and set type for a living while in college — I tend to be a stickler for accuracy, at least in my own writing. I used to be satisfied with a double-hyphen qua dash for html, with no leading or trailing spaces, but now use the en dash, with spaces either side. I've been convinced its more readable.

Oddly enough, though, Blogger renders the en dash as a hyphen; you need to use em dash for the correct visual effect.

Indigo Red said...

I like commas, prefer parenthesis to dashes (en or em); the ellipsis I use for indicating some words have been excised -- especially in a quote -- and in the mathematical sense that X goes on and on and ... I know that punctuation goes inside the parenthesis, but that looks stupid, so I break that rule frequently. I adore semi-colons which have fallen out of favor, replaced by short sentences with periods that so much remind me of child's writing. Now, if next time I could talk my physician into a semi-colonoscopy, all would be right with the world and Spellcheck would not suggest cloudscape and kaleidoscope to replace colonoscopy.

Michael said...

Shelby Foote used the dash. His friend Walker Percy not so much and William Alexander Percy not at all. Shelby, who was a neighbor a long while ago, wrote with a dip pen which might explain why he used the dash instead of the ellipses.

Michael said...

J: Does it trouble you that conservatives have read many of the books you claim to have read? I think it does. I think it makes your head explode that people holding the opposite of your views are better read and better educated. Better all around.

Kirk Parker said...

John Burgess,

Is that all you have to say? Or did you really mean to write:

"I will also use them when I want to leave a thought unclosed, a list unfinished..."

:-)

E.M. Davis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat said...

Well, she certainly dashed off to her 30-year-old waiter.

Beldar said...

Useful information: On any Windows-based computer, one can create an em-bash — which is to say, a dash the width of the letter m, as opposed to an en-dash, a dash the wideth of the letter n — by holding down the ALT key and tapping, in quick sequence, the following keys: 0151. (Immediately let up on the ALT key after tapping that second 1.)

I am a big fan of em-dash usage, for the same reasons you are, Professor Althouse. However, I'm an em-dash traditionalist, which means a single sentence can have either one or two em-dashes, and no more.

Use one em-dash when you've got a tag-on phrase that's shorter than the sort of complete stand-alone explanatory sentence you might instead put after a colon — like this one.

Use two em-dashes to suspend an "aside comment" — visually and in a particular sequence — as I have done with this sentence.

With more than two em-dashes, one loses track of what's the aside and what's the main sentence. It's also best to avoid using em-dash clauses in the same sentence with a semi-colon; the two related but independent thoughts you've thereby conjoined become less symmetric and less understandable if you try to hang an em-dash clause at the end or in the midst of either half.

Thus, in my pedantic em-dash purism, I would not approve the following sentence from Prof. Althouse's post:

"For example, the reason I was out there in Project Gutenberg searching for 'Africa' on a webpage that contained the entire text of what is — in paperback — a 544-page book is that — like everyone else who checked Memeorandum today — I got waylaid by a NY Post story titled 'Florida banker's wife left family to join Wall Street protesters.'"

I'd re-write that sentence to setoff the short explanatory aside, "in paperback," using commas, and I'd have kept the use of the em-dashes to set off the longer, more complicated, and less derivative phrase — "like everyone else who checked Memeorandum today."

Beldar said...

As for usage of em-dashes and ellipses in writing dialog:

Em-dash are to show interruption. Ellipses are for pauses.

If I were describing the hypothetical conversation I might have with Professor Althouse about this, I might write:

---------------

Beldar patiently explained his pedantic, stuffy preferences about em-dashes to Prof. Althouse. "I've felt strongly about this ever since I spent a year as a law review editor —"

"— and don't forget that you're not the only person here with that particular experience!" interjected the Professor.

"— a job which has as much to do with good writing as with good legal scholarship," Beldar finished lamely.

Professor Althouse nodded. "Unfortunately, the only profession — besides lawyering! — in which such polished writing skills are supposed to translate directly into cash is ...?" Prof. Althouse's rising voice tone was one her students had often doubtless heard as she subjected them to the Socratic Method.

"... journalism!" finished Beldar.

---------------

See what I did there?

Beldar said...

Two things I hate about the internet — or more specifically, the hypertext markup language ("HTML") it uses for most of its text display:

(1) It's really hard to indent paragraph beginnings. One needs to have indented paragraph beginnings in order to be able to do block-quotes rigorously and honestly (with the clearest possible signaling of whether the material you've quoted originally appeared mid-paragraph or includes paragraph beginnings). Note that usage maven, law-prof, and computer geek Eugene Volohk has custom-designed the CSS style sheets (HTML on steroids) so that every new paragraph on his Volohk Conspiracy website (volohk.com) to include coding for embedded nonbreaking spaces — at the beginning of each logical paragraph — to specifically address this shortfall in HTML.

      Thus, each of his new paragraphs begins looks like this one! Elegant, old-fashioned, useful, and an utter pain in the butt if you're having to do the HTML coding.

(2) If you use the conventional method for rendering an em-dash in something typed in the same way you'd have done on a typewriter — two adjoining hyphens, like I'm about to use here instead of a true em-dash -- and your reader resizes the window in which he's viewing your HTML text in his browser, the shifting line endings may end up putting one hyphen at the end of the line -

- and the second one at the beginning of the next line. That looks cheesy, and it's one reason why I take the trouble, even when just leaving comments on a blog like this one, to use the Windows ALT key-code trick to generate actual em-dashes: In re-calculating new line endings, Windows and its internet browsers can't split a single character onto two different lines.

Beldar said...

¶ And don't get me started on the pilcrow!

Roux said...

http://www.dilbert.com/2011-10-20/

Ralph L said...

Jane Austen did something unusual with dashes in the strawberry-picking scene in Emma. But people found out, and she died an old maid.

Diana Rigg was a little too old, but she was great as Lady Dedlock. The Esther in the Gillian Anderson version looked a lot like my mother and grandmother as girls.

frank said...

My all-time favorite "Bleak House" quote [had it on the law office wall]:

This is the Court of Chancery; which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire; which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse, and its dead in every churchyard; which has its ruined suitor, with his slipshod heels and threadbare dress, borrowing and begging through the round of every man's aquaintance; which gives to monied might the means abundantly of wearying out the right; which so exhausts finances, patience, courage, hope; so overthows the brain and breaks the heart; that there is not an honorable man among its practitioners who would not give--who does not often give--the warning, "Suffer any wrong that can be done you, rather than come here!"

frank said...

Ann, how about a poll on porn--do you, or your minions, prefer to read or...to watch?

frank said...

I notice Dick [ens] used a hell of a lot of semi-colons--J--which got me to thinking Titus is our resident expert on J's---that is--colons--half-ass or otherwise.

In the future--all commenters should use "J;" for proper punctuation--as a reminder.

Robert Cook said...

"I love dashes!!!!!!!!!"

It seems you really love exclamation points!!!!!!!

new york said...

http://workbench.cadenhead.org/news/3671/new-york-post-smears-occupy-wall-street-mom

Robert Cook said...

The king of the ellipsis was Louis-Ferdinand Celine. Here are the opening sentences from his GUIGNOL'S BAND"

"Boom!Zoom!...It's the big smashup!...The whole street caving in at the waterfront!...It's Orléans crumbling and thunder in the Grand Café!...A table sails by and splits the air!...Marble Bird!...spins round, shatters a window to splinters!...A houseful of furniture rocks, spirts from the casements, scatters in a rain of fire!...The proud bridge, twelve arches, staggers, topples smack into the mud. The slime of the river splatters!...mashes, splashes the mob yelling choking overflowing at the parapet!...It's pretty bad..."

(He's describing a German bombardment of Paris in WWII.)

Imagine whole novels written in this style...that's Celine!

GT said...

Dashes are great -- but, please, no more than one set per sentence!