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Staff Pick: David Doody

September 7, 2009

david_doody-small.jpg Fact: Periods slow things down. Fact: The lack of periods in a book makes your blood pressure rise, your anxiety level does the same, and if it—this lack of periods—goes on too long, it could be bad for you health. In short doses, though, it’s exciting.

Take, for example, Horacio Castellanos Moya’s Senselessness. Without having the book in my hands, I’d be willing to bet that if I did, I could count the number of periods in the entire book on these hands. The result is a paranoid romp that mirrors on the page the narrator’s decent into (possibly) irrational lines of thinking. It’s less speed reading as it is reading on speed.

The latest book I read that uses this device is Ray of the Star by Laird Hunt, a mystical adventure into a foreign land that, if we were to explain it to someone, is not strange itself—it could be many European cities from what I understand. But the language and the style choices (and the characters, but we’re talking about the language and the style choices here), namely the lack of periods, make this a strange land. Each two- to three-page section only has one period, coming at the very end of the section. The result is not so much a decent into paranoia the way I remember Senselessness being, but the heart-racing pace it sets, all the same, creates a sense of anxiety. The difference could be attributed to the fact that one is told as a first-person narrative, relying on the main character as the narrator, while the other has an omnipresent narrator. It could also come from the dream-like landscape Hunt puts us in: Human statues walk the streets in full costume; shoes talk to characters before being tossed from a cliff. Still, the pacing that results from the decision to all but exclude periods makes these drastically different books than they would be were periods placed throughout. Without time to breathe, the reader can only allow himself to go along for the ride. And it’s a beautiful, terrifying, and unbelievably sad ride that Hunt brings us on in Ray of the Star.

Bio: David Doody is Guernica’s blog editor and a founding editor of InDigest Magazine. Read his last recommendation “here”:

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