Ellmann has long delighted in provocation
September 8, 2019 9:49 PM   Subscribe

Sounds to me like her real sentence is for crimes against grammar.
posted by biogeo at 10:56 PM on September 8, 2019 [8 favorites]

A single period but a million commas.
posted by fairmettle at 11:05 PM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Just using commas is basically how Mathias Énard achieved a 'single sentence' novel. The review in the Guardian sort of parodies how Lucy Ellmann did it using not just commas but also the phrase 'the fact that.' Amazon US doesn't seem to offer 'Look Inside ...' yet, but Amazon UK has a long preview.
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:22 PM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm enjoying reading a few pages a day of this, but that "the fact that" thing is a bit irksome.
posted by chavenet at 12:39 AM on September 9, 2019

At first I was a bit disappointed that she achieved that one-sentence-novel-thing basically by using a long list of facts and commas instead of full stops for all the digressions - I was thinking of something with a single main clause and grammatically correct subordinate clauses, where you really only get to the predicate of the main clause on the last page, and I really wanted to see how one might pull that of.

But generally I love the whole concept of this, a stream-of-consciousness doorstopper - I'm usually here for that kind of thing; it's the closest you can get to plunging into someone else's head.
posted by sohalt at 12:53 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's been said that reading that book is what drove Lucky in Waiting for Godot over the brink.
posted by micketymoc at 1:17 AM on September 9, 2019

Ellmann, the daughter of the Joyce scholar Richard Ellmann, marries this impulse to an experimental, stream-of-consciousness style, much as “Ulysses” did.

...riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend
of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to
Howth Castle and Environs.
posted by Fizz at 4:49 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oof. I took a look at the preview, and it's not for me. I'm sure that there are hidden gems within the prose, but my eyes felt tired just trying to get from one "the fact that" to the next in an unending block of text that would go on for many, many, many pages.
posted by xingcat at 6:49 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

What no appreciation of the update of Christopher Smart? and Jeoffry? - For he can creep
Let us consider
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 6:56 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Oof, xingcat. Evidently the kindle edition in the preview does not even have page breaks! Just one block of text. I'm holding out for the edition that has just one line, scrolling to the right...

I can lose myself in the ephemera---there is enough familiar to my experience and that of some people close to me that it rings true, especially if you suffer from a bit of attention disorder, but I'm not sure how to sustain my own attention in order to read more than 20-30 lines without looking around for some kind of break!
posted by TreeRooster at 7:22 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Meh. The Oulipians gave themselves far more difficult restrictions, and entire novels in verse seem far more challenging.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:06 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

...riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend
of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to
Howth Castle and Environs.

Not Ulysses. It’s Finnegans Wake. Same author.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:49 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

So is it actually one grammatically-correctly (more or less) constructed sentence? Because I looked at the preview and I guess how the "sentence" ends will be the determining factor (like it could be "the fact that X, the fact that Y, combined with the fact that Z all meant [stunning conclusion]" and that's annoying to read but grammatically correct, I guess.

Or is it more that no sentence every properly ends and it's just a bunch of thoughts stuck together without periods?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:59 AM on September 9, 2019

Huh...No audiobook, I see.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:00 AM on September 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

If there's not only a single subject and predicate I feel I'm being duped.
posted by little onion at 9:07 AM on September 9, 2019

I don't think "it's just one sentence" is actually the point of the book. The review makes it sound like an interesting and unique experience that has a lot to say. I do think it would do great as an audio book though.
posted by bleep at 9:49 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Presumably, they're recording the audio book in shifts.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:30 AM on September 9, 2019

So it's like Wittgenstein's Mistress except with "the fact that" instead of line breaks?
posted by kenko at 11:25 AM on September 9, 2019

The 1000+ page book that consists of a single sentence

the fact that it doesn't
posted by flabdablet at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

The fact that no one seems to be relating Ducks, Newburyport to Wittgenstein's Mistress, despite the fact that each seems to consist of linked statements or allusions to facts that gradually detail the main character's state of mind and even a narrative of sorts, the fact that speakers of English seem to have a relationship to the grammar of their language marked primarily by ignorance and awe, the fact that one sees this in for instances the fetishization of the German compound word over the English space-separated compound noun, the fact that in the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street, the fact that the structure of long sentences in three modern novels would in fact be an interesting thing to pursue, the fact that the long sentences of Krasznahorkai are unlike the long sentences of Bernhard are unlike the long sentences of Ellman (are unlike the long sentences of, say, James, Sebald, or Murnane), the fact that the sentences themselves but also their reception is worthy of examination, the fact that the mere length of a sentence is rarely the most interesting thing about it, presuming it's interesting at all, the fact that Markson's myriad of short sentences effects a similar pileup of fragment and detail, the fact that nevertheless the small dot, the line break, and the capital letter do seem to make a difference for the reader, the fact that repetition and length can vary independently, the fact that a long sentence (or a short one) can ease the reader along, hinder and obstruct the reader, or be something of a neutral medium through which the reader passes neither eased nor obstructed, the fact that, to risk repetition myself not merely in headwords, and to risk moreover a bit of over-cuteness, one oughtn't be so dazzled by the factivity of punctuation that one overlooks its activity, that is to say, a sentence's word count is of less interest to the critic than what the sentence with its dimensions, the fact that Frank Sinatra was reported to have had quite a long sentence but, according to someone, I can't remember who, who read it herself, he wasn't a good writer, the fact that the name that comes to mind regarding that anecdote is Jayne Mansfield's, the fact that I have no particular interest in pursuing the question of that critic's identity further at this time, the fact that when I began to compose the list entry three before this one, I had had an idea about how to continue this sentence, the fact that now, having composed both that entry, and the one one before *this* one, that is, the one in which I took up the topic of the topic I had had in mind, I no longer recall what it was, so that I can't be confident that it was, as occurred to me when I began writing in this present vein, that it concerned the letter Gerald Murnane once wrote to a reviewer about that reviewer's misidentification, in Murnane's opinion, of a run-on sentence, or other grammatical chimera, as a single properly formed sentence, the fact that the sentence under dispute in that letter had been praised by the reviewer on the grounds of its length, which as I have already stated if perhaps not quite argued is a silly reason to praise a sentence, the fact that, despite this just-voiced opinion of mine, Murnane describes and reproduces the letter in an essay entitled "In Praise of the Long Sentence", the fact that you may read the essay, and the letter, here, the fact that flabdablet is correct, the fact that by Murnane's lights, and to be sure my own as well, this present series of tweets, also a series of clauses, is not a sentence but rather simply one clause laid after another with no particular grammatical relationship between them that would serve to unify them into a single sentences, the fact that, as Facebook reminded me, On This Day a year or two ago I offered a false etymology of "congeries" purporting to derive it from "congee", explaining that congee is a porridge in which the grains of rice remain discrete, as indeed do any inclusions in the porridge, so that one may say that it is a collection of grains but not a whole, the fact that "congeries" is a delightful word, in my opinion, the fact that I feel very much as if I could go on practically forever like this, such is the fertility and capacity of ever-productive all-encompassing immodest brainpan, the fact that at the same time I do not feel as if I could go on practically forever like this, because I've gone on for a bit already and am uncertain whether this will actually amuse anyone, the fact that a nontrivial amount of my metafilter activity is oriented toward the prospective amusement of myself or others rather than anything more, I don't know, laudable, not to say that the amusement of oneself or others is *not* laudable, but also not neglecting the fact that it is not, perhaps, using the medium to its fullest capacity, the fact that it is also, of course, not using it in a detrimental way, the fact that not using something poorly is not really the same as using it well or grounds for praise, the fact that, ideally, this sentence would come to a graceful end rather than simply stopping, the fact that a main verb is as yet wanting—all these things seem to be worthy of consideration.
posted by kenko at 12:08 PM on September 9, 2019 [23 favorites]

Ah shit I failed to edit that properly, oh well.
posted by kenko at 12:22 PM on September 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

The fact that I for one enjoyed that very much.
posted by bleep at 1:37 PM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Bravo kenko!
posted by blue shadows at 2:18 PM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:25 AM on September 10, 2019

I'm kind of disappointed that none of the reviews of Ellmann's book that I read mention Mike McCormack's excellent Solar Bones. Recommended if you like single-sentence novels but not 1,000 pages of them.
posted by fregoli at 9:38 AM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Q: Are we dwelling too much on your book’s length and heft?

A: Yes. The length is a necessary adjunct to what I wanted to get across, and the way I wanted to do that. Conventional narrative techniques and dutiful compression would not have suited this project. It had to be long. I’d prefer to talk about content.

Can I say that I also suspect it would not be such an issue if I were not female? Men can take liberties; a woman writing a long book is considered audacious, if not outrageous. Our novels, like us, are supposed to be petite. So many male reviewers have complained about this book’s size that I fear male upper body strength may not be all it’s cracked up to be. But come on, guys, it’s just a novel, not 7,000 volumes of Wikipedia.

(Lucy Ellmann, interviewed in The Washington Post)
posted by chavenet at 2:45 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

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