Suspend Your Disbelief

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capitalization as Stylistic Device


evening-is-the-whole-dayFWR contributor Preeta Samarasan is compiling a list of 19th-21st century authors who capitalize words for dramatic/comedic effect, as Dickens does. Recently, several novelists (including Raj Kamal Jha and Preeta herself) have been accused of imitating Arundati Roy’s style because they use capitalization for stylistic reasons, but as Preeta said earlier today, Roy “did not invent this technique, and her style involves a whole lot more than mere capitalization.” Dear readers, please comment with author names and specific examples.

Here are a few to start us off:

Lorrie Moore (from “People Like That Are the Only People Here”):

“Now, suddenly, alternative medicine seems the wacko maiden aunt to the Nice Big Daddy of Conventional Treatment…She tries for some noble abstractions, nothing too anthropomorphic, just some Higher Morality, though if this particular Highness looks something like the manager at Marshall Field’s, sucking a Frango mint, so be it…Ha! The Great Havoc that is the Puzzle of all Life!”

Virginia Woolf (from her diaries)

“But it is a serene, accomplished feeling, to write, even provisionally, the End, and we are off on Saturday, with my mind appeased.”

Amy Hempl (from “The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is buried”)

“It seems to me Anger must be next. Then Bargaining, Depression, and so on and so forth. But I keep my guesses to myself…She is flirting with the Good Doctor, who has just appeared…”

Stuart Dybek (from “We Didn’t”)

“They did it because of the Bomb, because of pollution, because of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, because extinction might be just a blink away.”

Kelly Link (from “The Specialist’s Hat”)

“‘When you’re Dead,’ Samantha says, ‘you don’t have to brush your teeth…’ ‘When you’re Dead,’ Claire says, ‘you live in a box, and it’s always dark, but you’re not ever afraid.’ Claire and Samantha are identical twins. Their combined age is twenty years, four months, and six days. Claire is better at being Dead than Samantha.”

Julian Barnes (from A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters)

“Some creatures were simply Not Wanted on Voyage. That was the case with us; that’s why we had to stow away.”

I’m sure there are examples from Joyce, Beckett, Jim Shepard, Miranda July, Meg Wolitzer, Louise Erdrich, Lydia Davis, Jeanette Winterson, Don DeLillo, Richard Russo, Zadie Smith, Claire Messud, Lauren Groff, Z.Z. Packer, Donald Barthelme…


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