Why it should be there on the second page of the novel, I couldn't imagine: this was certain not the first edition of this book, it was published by Random House, honoured with the Pulitzer, endorsed by our beloved Oprah.
I looked again.
He thought the month was October but he wasnt sure.Frustrations of frustrations - I didn't have a free hand to fumble in my big bag for an editor's pen (automatic reaction), trying to read while strap- hanging on the LRT.
And then the next sentence:
He hadnt kept a calendar for years.Ouch and double ouch!
Because now I could see that the novel was part of a sinister plot to rid the world of its apostrophes. I flicked through the pages with my nose to confront my darkest fears. With great relief I saw that this strange disease had not yet spread to other contractions:
I'm ... they'd ... there'd ... what's ...maybe there was hope for the world after all!
As soon as I got home after teaching my class I googled:
"cormac mccarthy"+apostrophesand found that numerous others had the same problem with his writing. Kimbofo of Reading Matters went so far as to write the author an open letter:
Dear Mr McCarthy,Another blogger, Jodi of iwilldare.com writes:
I am currently about a third of the way through your latest book, The Road. I am very much enjoying it. The post-apocalyptic setting reminds me of Mad Max meets Stephen King's The Stand. However, there is one thing that is really bugging me, and it is this:
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE APOSTROPHES IN THE CONTRACTED WORDS?
For example, why have you written don't as DONT, won't as WONT, couldn't as COULDNT?
Is this some kind of clever literary thing I don't understand, or a lazy editor's error? I find it so annoying I have to do everything within my power not to scribble proofing marks in red pen all over the book's crisp white pages.
P.S. I wonder what the Apostrophe Protection Society would have to say about the matter.
The random apostrophes are bothering me and take me right out of the story. See, he apostrophizes I’m, I’ll, I’d, and It’s, but not cant, wouldnt, aint, isnt, and dont. It drives me bonkers. I think I am paying more attention to the contractions then to the story. While reading, I’m constantly making a mental tally of the apostrophes and trying to figure out the mystery. Why do some words get them? What could possibly be the symbolism? Does anyone have any idea why he did this?Jordan Lapp reckons with some justification that McCarthy is resorting to what he calls Stupid Pet Tricks to get attention, and takes issue with his use (or lack thereof) of other punctuation marks.
But it's Sam Leith on the Telegraph blog who really gets it right about The Road:
Why, for example, is his vision of the apocalypse one in which the imaginary holocaust seems to have destroyed apostrophes? This is hard core stuff. ... These people don't just need gasoline and tinned food: they need punctuation.Now I can live with the short choppy sentences, the incomplete sentences that present themselves as sentences, and the dropping of colons and semi-colons. The paucity of commas holds no fears for me. (Peter Carey didn't use a single one in True History of the Kelly Gang, recreating the voice of an unschooled man, based on the style of Ned Kelly's own writing.) And I'm perfectly happy to see inverted commas dropped from dialogue anyway.
But please, Mr. McCarthy, hands off the apostrophes.
Maybe Oprah can set you right when she interviews your reclusive self on her show tomorrow (only the third one ever). But then again, I think she (or whoever writes her publicity blurbs) might be apostrophically challenged too:
Oprah's Book Club has approximately one million online members. Each of it’s selections have skyrocketed to the top of bestsellers lists.Punctuation aside, McCarthy's novel is very well worth reading, if harrowing. I'm reviewing it so will post more about it later.