Perhaps no single emblem better epitomizes the perversity of my colleagues than the lowly quotation mark. Some rogue must have issued a memo, "Psst! Cool writers don't use quotes in dialogue anymore" to authors as disparate as Junot Díaz, James Frey, Evan S. Connell, J.M. Coetzee, Ward Just, Kent Haruf, Nadine Gordimer, José Saramago, Dale Peck, James Salter, Louis Begley and William Vollmann. To the degree that this device contributes to the broader popular perception that "literature" is pretentious, faddish, vague, eventless, effortful, and suffocatingly interior, quotation marks may not be quite as tiny as they appear on the page.Lionel Shriver laments the demise of quotation marks in much modern fiction in the Wall Street Journal [via Literary Saloon].
This is an argument we've had on this blog before. And as I said back then, personally I'm not a fan of quotation marks (stuffy, old fashioned, unnecessary things!) and have no problem when authors such as McCarthy, Coetzee and Diaz drop them. (Though as I've said before, McCarthy's apostrophes are another matter!)
These authors are not a jot more effortful to read, I'd say, than Ms Shriver. (Members of my book club complained about needing a dictionary by them to cope with all the new vocab chucked up in We Need to Talk About Kevin. "No-one would really use these words in a letter," thay said.)
But maybe Shriver has a point that the lack of quotation marks is a bit of a turn off for the less convinced reader?