Tuesday, 8 December 2009

comma splices and a frightening and thrilling Pastworld

I've just read a novel I thoroughly enjoyed. It's called Pastworld. After a while, mainly because of the age of the main characters - 17 - I realised the book was written for young people. It's published by Bloomsbury Children's Books.

The idea underlying the plot is gripping - London, in the middle of the twenty-first century, has been bought by a mega-Corporation and turned into a huge theme park where residents and visitors live according to Victorian-era laws, morality and culture. The darker side of Victorian life (and of mega-corporations!) creates a sense of evil that provides the tension.

The book's a great read and I wonder if it might one day be made into a film.

One odd thing that struck me about the writing was that the author, Ian Beck, sometimes uses comma splices.

At first I thought it was occurring only in dialogue, which seems fine to me, as it gives a sense of the individuality of a character. Here's an example from page 84. 'At least we shall travel on a steam train, you might enjoy that.'

But there are comma splices in other places too, for instance on page 88: Lucius turned to Caleb and stopped him, he held on to his arm and said almost in a whisper...

There are many more examples of this construction.

I've heard it said that the comma splice will eventually be acceptable in English. I know that I see it often in the writing of teenagers, which makes me wonder if their writing is a sign of the times to come. I like changes in English, in language generally, because to me that's a sign of life, of change and growth. But I must say that comma splices 'twang' for me when I'm reading and take me momentarily out of the world of the writer's imagination.

Anyway, here's a great gift idea for all those writers who've already moved into the brave new world of comma splicing.

When I checked out the home page of the writer, Ian Beck, I was pleasantly surprised to realise he's the author of some of the lovely picture books I've shard with young children in the past.


limom said...

If the way teens write is a sign of times, then the English language as we know it will cease to exist.
Hopefully, I'll be dead by then.

parlance said...

Limom, I'll have to agree with you. I must have been having an optimistic day when I wrote that.

But I've just come across some comma splices with a high level of credibility, so I'll take back the remark about teens showing the way and post another example of the real leaders showing us it's okay to splice sometimes.