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Group Reads Discussions 2009 > The Road -- How do you feel about the lack of punctuation

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Robin (RobinSullivan) | 348 comments I myself am very mystified as it was not consistent. He avoided commas in many cases but they were not completely missing. Sometimes he would use apostrophe's in contractions and other times not. If it was always consistent then it would make some sense to me but since it seemed "haphazard" I'm not sure what to make of it.


Sandi (Sandikal) The lack of punctuation really struck me as an affection. I recently read Blindness by José Saramago. Saramago uses many of the same literary techniques--he doesn't punctuate and nobody has a name. Yet, Saramago makes it work and McCarthy doesn't. It struck me that McCarthy was just trying to copy what Saramago did so successfully.


message 3: by Dan (last edited Feb 01, 2009 01:38PM) (new)

Dan (djunger) | 15 comments I didn't really mind the lack of apostrophes and quotation marks -- it seemed to match the setting, where only few of the old cultural trappings had endured. And it in some ways made reading the book easier. In almost any other book I would have found it pretentious, as annoying as the practice of spelling one's name without using capital letters.

The device of running together words in portmanteau fashion, like "cashregister," didn't make much sense to me.

Robin, good point about the inconsistent usage ... I wonder if anyone's tried to analyze whether there was any point to that!


Michelle (MickeyZ) Sandi wrote: "The lack of punctuation really struck me as an affection. I recently read Blindness by [a:José Sarama..."

I totally agree. I find authors' lack of utilization of commas, periods, apostrophes, etc to be completely pretenious and distracting to the overall story. I also find writing in slang or dialect to also be distracting. I do not want to decipher what I am reading. I am an avid reader, who reads mostly for pleasure. I have had to reread sentences more than once while reading "The Road", and while I have read more distracting novels, I feel I would get more from it if it where puncuatated right.



Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) I'm gonna have to agree with Dan here. I struggled with the structure of the sentences and the punctuation (and lack of it) too, but altogether, I felt that it represented the landscape and the bleak, unpredictable existence they had.

I think I posted this elsewhere, but if this was written in standard, straightforward prose, it would not have affected me the way it did. Regular descriptions could be used, of course, but because of the unique and bare style that was used in "The Road", I felt that I was experiencing the fear, the uncertainty, the hunger, the cold, the paranoia, the loneliness and utter desperation right along with them. I felt those things in a way that reading regular prose descriptions cannot accomplish.

I felt similarly about "Blindness". It took me a while to get used to that style, but it was effective in making me feel blind and helpless myself.

In both cases, it can be argued that the writing is an affectation, and the same story could be told without breaking every known grammar rule. And it could, I suppose, but it would then be just a story. It wouldn't be as effective at pulling us in and making us experience it. The experience is meaningful to me.


message 6: by Robin (last edited Feb 03, 2009 12:02AM) (new)

Robin (RobinSullivan) | 348 comments Michelle wrote: "I have had to reread sentences more than once while reading "The Road", and while I have read more distracting novels, I feel I would get more from it if it where puncuatated right.

I felt what he was doing was totally "gimmicky" and yes it distracted me - There would some sentences that I would read 3 times trying to figure it out. If it takes you out of the story - that is bad. The words should disappear not be a roadblock.

-- Wife of GR author Michael J. Sullivan: The Crown Conspiracy (10/08) | Avempartha (04/09)



Terri (TerriLovesCrows) | 73 comments that really didn't bother me. I didn't think is was necessary for the story either.


Kevinalbee | 188 comments It adds an air af thread barness to the story. Just like the dialoge nothing that is not absolutley necessary.

I also had a thought. The world is dark and lifeless. If the distruction was that extensisve where not even a single plant had started to gro 7 years after all life including man would be gone. the darkness and gray of the world could be due to the fathers view of things.

he percieves it as totally grey anbd lifeless and passes that to his son.

Just a thought. i just got the book yesterday and read the first 100 pages in an hr las night. I love it so far.


Manuel | 49 comments Lack of punctuation didnt bother me in the least.

Its a quick read, I think I read it in only two evenings.

The strangest punctuation I remember in a book was "The General" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Absolutely no paragraphs for approx 300 pages.


Barb | 4 comments I had heard about McCarthy’s disregard of traditional punctuation and I admit I thought it both pretentious and useless for an author to impinge on the reader’s experience in this way. After reading the book I feel differently. As several have already mentioned, I thought the unorthodox style suited both the subject matter and the barren setting. It made the act of reading itself uncertain and unsettling (though after the first few pages, not consciously so) and most definitely added to my enjoyment of the novel.


Richard (MrRedwood) | 161 comments Worked for me. It felt strange for a few pages, but then I accommodated. I think it contributed to the feeling of bleakness -- like the characters dreams and future, it felt truncated and abrupt. Don't spend too much time... look away... try not to think. Try not to feel.

(I did try reading some Joyce once, but got seriously confused and had to put the book down and lie down in a darkened room to recover.)


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

I didn't think it was necessary or added to the story, and at first I thought it was inconsistent (and, to be sure, the commas were. Though I'm not sure if I could have gotten through the book if there were absolutely no commas) but as far as the apostrophes go, he seemed to only use them when the word would become a different word if he did not.

For example, "dont" - the lack of apostrophe doesn't confuse the reader (except for the twinge of pain at the grammar) but if he didn't say "we'll", he would have said "well", or "I'll" would be "Ill". That was the only consistency I found, though I believe he also use "I'm" and I don't understand what the confusion would have been there.


message 13: by Robin (last edited Feb 11, 2009 02:27AM) (new)

Robin (RobinSullivan) | 348 comments The apostrophe's bugged me more than the lack of commas or the lack of quotes - There seemed to be no rhyme or reason but Callie seems to be finding some patterns although not 100% consistent. It just seems to be an unnecessary distraction - It is one of the little 'pet peeves' I had about this book that made it frustrating for me.


Catamorandi (wwwgoodreadscomprofilerandi) I, personally, did not like the lack of punctuation, or the inconsistency of the punctuation that was there. I went along with Callie on the apostrophes, but she was right when she said the reason she gave was also inconstent. The commas, I usually found, as needed. His numerous run-on sentences had commas in order to set apart something special in the sentence, which one might not get otherwise. I am not sure there is any consistency with that, though, either. It just really took away from the story for me.


Jane (jane_jones) | 37 comments I didn't think it added to the book. The "lack" of punctuation didn't bother me nearly as much as the runon setences and the fragments. They were just plain annoying and when the mechanics of the writing interfer with the telling - That's a bad idea - IMO


Jensownzoo | 202 comments Here's something funny...I didn't even notice the punctuation. Now, looking back, I think quotation marks would have broken the mood and given the conversations more emphasis then they really deserved.


message 17: by Richard (last edited Feb 15, 2009 05:36PM) (new)

Richard (MrRedwood) | 161 comments BTW, anyone who still has a hankering for McCarthy but really disliked the style, this is from the Newsweek review:
Using the stripped-down prose that he employed so effectively in his last book, "No Country for Old Men," McCarthy spins an entire novel around two people, a father and his young son fighting their way through a post-apocalyptic world reduced to cold ashes and ruins.
So you'll be wanting to skip that book.


Mike (mtwags) | 3 comments I was not aware of this when I started reading it. Hmmm, imagine my surprise. Once I got used to it there was no problem. Kinda cool really.


message 19: by O2 (new)

O2 I could never get used to the strange style. It dominated the storyline. Maybe I will go back to it one day.


Jillian | 6 comments I found this book very readable--I wasn't bothered at all by the punctuation (its lack thereof, or its inconsistencies). However, a colleague of mine said that she felt it absolutely affected her reading, and thus her overall enjoyment of the book.



Maria | 27 comments The punctuation, fragments, etc were distracting at first but as I read I felt that they did contribute to the bleakness of the story. The only part that really bothered me were the lack of apostrophes.


Kate | 4 comments The lack of commas bugged me for the first couple of pages, but then I got used to it. It totally affected my mood while I read the book. I don't think the book would be the same without this style. It kind of represents how nothing matters anymore. It doesn't matter what year it is, or where they are. All that matters is living day by day, pushing forward to survive.


Robin (RobinSullivan) | 348 comments Missorli2 wrote: "All that matters is living day by day, pushing forward to survive.

Hmmmm You just made me think of something...a chord of why I didn't like this book...It was all about surving without living. I would rather LIVE a short life well then a long life in misery.




Kristjan (BookTroll) | 189 comments Robin wrote: "Hmmmm You just made me think of something...a chord of why I didn't like this book... I would rather LIVE a short life well then a long life in misery.

Sure ... but there is a difference between the belief that I CAN'T live so why don't I just give up and a decision TO live regardless of the risk. I too would rather live ... if life is short because of that, so be it. I don't need to hurry it along :)


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Books mentioned in this topic

Blindness (other topics)
Avempartha (other topics)
No Country for Old Men (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

José Saramago (other topics)
Michael J. Sullivan (other topics)
James Joyce (other topics)