Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mike Check


And now, because it's a Sunday morning, an analysis of the ballsiest, most self-indulgent run-on sentence in history. It comes compliments of celebrated author Michael Chabon, from his column in the January/February issue of Details, and via a personal story.

When I was a kid, my grandfather decided one day that, after nearly a lifetime together, he wanted to teach my grandmother how to drive. He pulled over into the parking lot of a shopping center (one which could claim as its anchor a Sears that he happened to have a bizarrre personal vendetta against because it had once sold him a faulty air conditioner, but that's another story) and told my grandmother to switch places with him and take the wheel. She reluctantly acquiesced, sliding into the driver's seat while my grandfather, holding my five-year-old body in his arms, planted himself directly opposite her. For whatever reason, probably old-man recalcitrance, he didn't bother strapping a seatbelt across the two of us. When my grandmother stepped on the gas, the car lunged forward, pushing my grandfather and me back in our seat. Scared to death by the sudden movement, my grandmother immediately stepped on the brakes, throwing us all forward inside the car. This violent stopping and starting seemed to happen at an almost machine-gun rate -- over and over; forward, stop, forward, stop -- until my grandmother finally jammed the brake pedal all the way to the floor -- wrenching me out of my grandfather's arms and slamming my head into the windshield. The impact left an ugly spiderweb across the glass and blood pouring from a gash in my head.

Why do I bring this up?

Just read this, and pay attention to the commas:

"And yet when I heard this gifted and intelligent woman, Annie Druyan, wondering, fervently but not without a sense of her own goofiness, if perhaps, ages hence, some techno-magical future alien race might not be able to reconstitute, from the record of her brain waves, the feeling of her incipient passion for her man and for the work that they undertook together, as equals, partners, and lovers, to re-create the sense of how it felt to be Annie Druyan on an afternoon in New York City during those infatuated, boundary-breaking, termination-shock-crossing years, I knew that I was listening, carried as by a lonely probe across the distances, to the voice of the 1970s."

If you'll excuse me now, I'm going to go wipe the blood off my forehead.

13 comments:

tamara said...

1, one little comma...mwah-ha-ha!...

...17, seventeen little commas, mwah-ha-ha!

Help! I've read that sentence four times now, and still have no idea what the fuck he's trying to say. I can't stop counting the commas.

Harris said...

Spy once ran a story about what it called the worst lede ever written. It came from Esquire or some such magazine and while I don't remember much about either story, I do remember that lede: "999999. These are the nines. As in 'Dressed to.' As in 'Most people are.' "

I'm fairly certain I blacked out after reading that for the first time.

RottweilerTOM said...

would you prefer exclamation points?

kelley said...

what?

kanye said...

"Editor? I don't need no Editor! I'm Michael Chabon, bitch!"

Jim said...

He should have written that sentence in all caps, that way he wouldn't even have to bother with punctuation at all.

Eric said...

Dear Mr. Chabon,
Nathaniel Hawthorne is dead.

Sincerely,

Me

Sheriff Bart said...

I'm sorry. Could you repeat that?

Anonymous said...

Excellent! LMAO!

Andrea said...

Ok, I'll admit that English is not my first language and that I'm used to sentences running on a little longer than ten words.
But creating a connection as well as a tension between different levels of time and existence is what this sentence is about - so what's there not to like?

foolery said...

So, which one of you retains the forehead scar? Or is it ME, from the lobotomy that I, without my knowledge and certainly against my wishes, had I known, which I didn't, must have been given, something something something voice of the 1970s.

I should just watch TV.

Anonymous said...

Commas are not pauses. If you read it through then it makes sense. I don't see the problem.

Chez said...

Thanks for taking the time to write in Michael. Love your stuff.