Punctuation Maps of Classic Novels (Medium)

This is one (actual, several) of the strangest literary projects I’ve come across in all my internet trawling: a study of punctuation in classic novels. If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite books look like stripped of words, well, here they are in their undergarments.

The author, one Adam Calhoun, looked at titles ranging from Great Expectations to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and found remarkable disparities in the use of commas, semi-colons, periods, and quotation marks. A Farewell to Arms is, of course, full of short, comma-less sentences and dialogue. Blood Meridian apparently tolerates only the period. And then there’s Absalom, Absalom!, Calhoun’s favorite book, for reasons we can only begin to diagnose.

In Calhoun’s own words:

Clearly, some authors are more okay with long, rambling sentences than others. William Faulkner looks at your short sentences and says nothing less than fuck you.

Calhoun lays out chart after chart to map punctuation use in increasingly interesting ways. Where it gets really weird, and especially beautiful, is in the final “heat map” section—also known as all of the classics rendered as sunsets.

Happy reading, and mapping, if that’s your thing.

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Miscellaneous Bookish Topics

I’ve rounded up my random and momentary musings on bookish topics from the last couple of weeks into a single post. Here we go, in no particular order:

  • I am halfway through A Farewell to Arms and have (slightly) revised my opinion of Hemingway. This time around, his style is (slightly) less repetitive and his themes (war, love) more interesting. *Thanks for at least trying, Hem.*
  • My dad and I bonded over The Outsiders last fall, so for my birthday I asked him to buy me this set of rings. For those of you who don’t remember (or never read The Outsiders, because you didn’t attend an American middle school), Ponyboy recites Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” while hiding in an abandoned church with Johnny. As he lies dying in the hospital in a later scene, Johnny says his famous line: “Stay gold, Ponyboy.”

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  • Also for my birthday, a certain thoughtful husband took me to the Morgan Library, which houses J. P. Morgan’s personal collection of rare manuscripts, historically significant objects, and artistic masterpieces. It is ridiculously beautiful and ridiculously interesting. Morgan had, for example, a Gutenberg Bible, an original Mozart manuscript, and a plaster cast of George Washington’s face (he really did look just like his portraits). Here are some photos of his three-story library:

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  • One of my all-time favorite websites, TV Tropes, inspired my recent article on memorable moments from The Simpsons. TV Tropes looks at tropes and rhetorical devices in TV (obviously), but also film, literature, and many other creative forms. If you’re a reader or a writer, you’ll want to check it out—though I should warn you in advance that you’ll probably get caught up in a trope version of wikidreaming . . .

That’s all, folks. Have a great weekend, and happy reading!