Those missing quote marks made me think of another contemporary favorite's work, the novels of Charlie Huston [Try Already Dead (Joe Pitt Series #1) ) if you're new to his work.] Huston, who is quite the character himself, as indefatigable publishing maven can tell you, never uses quotation marks either. Instead, each character opens a line of direct discourse with an em-dash, or "—". This gives his books a vaguely European or antique flavor, I have to say, but this reader's initial surprise soon gives way to the sheer joy of being swept along by Huston's fast-moving plots.
So, here we have two bestselling writers who eschew quotation marks. But what about this recent conundrum from a children’s book editor at a major NYC publishing house?
In stetting a change, she asked,
"Why is it that when a character speaks in more than one continuous paragraph, the first paragraph starts with a quotation mark and ends with one, but the next paragraph does not start with one, only ending with it?"
Why is that so?"
The patient copy editor who replied explained the "rules" of this typographic stricture: "Because that's the way it's done. Chicago says so. Words Into Type says so. All the style manuals say so. It is to distinguish between two paragraphs of speech from one character and two paragraphs of speech from two different characters."
Hooray for patient copy editors, inquisitive editors, and typographic oddities that give us all jobs to do.
And should we send up a hurrah for those masterful authors who let us dispense with those quotation marks, and such questions, entirely? What do you think of Auster’s and Huston's dismissal of the marks?
Ellen Scordato has 25 years' book publishing experience as an editor, copy editor, proofreader, and managing editor. She's now a partner in The Stonesong Press, a nonfiction book producer and agency. In addition to her work at Stonesong, Ellen has taught grammar, punctuation, and style at the New School for more than 12 years in the English Language Studies department and taught English as a Second Language at Cabrini Immigrant Services.