A World Without Commas, and Other Terrifying Specters

When things were tough and the chips were down, or at any rate felt down, Strider (I can't help it, that's how he wants to be referred to) suggested I read some Trollope. He, of all people, knows that I am putty in the hands of Mr. Trollope. I love his deep sympathy for his characters, his rueful acceptance of most of the unpleasant vagaries of human character, and his willingness to, you know, tell a story. A real story, as my kids might have said when they were younger, meaning one where something happens, and you worry about how it will turn out. (And if you're looking for a gateway drug, you can do no better than to jump in without a care for how the whole series runs and read The Last Chronicle of Barset, which is amazing and upsetting and makes you think of Tolstoy.)

And so it came to pass that I moseyed over to our local used bookstore (because I am cheap), and purchased this:

Image courtesy alibris.com

Forgive the tiny image, my camera is recovering from its adventures.

And so I sat down in the squishy couch and prepared to enjoy. And was brought up short on the very first page. It seems the publisher, not content to profit from the public domain, had: decided to save money? Moved quickly through the editing process? Didn't read the galleys? Something. At any rate, I would estimate that about 60% of the commas were…missing.  So I got sentences like this:



I usually find convoluted Victorian language comforting rather than troublesome. But convoluted Victorian language without commas? Yikes.

I decided to try for five minutes to see if the story had the strength to carry me over the rocky roads. And it did. I got caught up—that's just my nature. But throughout, I kept coming across craziness like this:


It made for a bizzarre reading experience. But I persevered, and was rewarded (I can't explain the odd satisfaction I get out of these novels, though at some point I will try).

But I wanted, by the end, to figure out what was going on. What the heck kind of publisher was this? So I went to their website. And was…surprised. Note: not for the faint of heart.

It seems to be…sort of Shakespearean erotica? But low-rent Shakespearean erotica?

And then there's this. I mean, I knew all about the whole Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, which didn't particilary appeal to me. It seems so condescending somehow. But this? Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy's Dreadful Secret? I am amazed and befuddled. On the one hand, I am glad that there is a place in the world for eveyrone and everything. On the other hand, really?

And what do they have against commas and semicolons? Why remove so many?

On the whole, it felt like "An Adventure in Low-End Publishing!" which must be among the least enticing adventures. But I am still, weeks later, haunted by it. Is there still another publisher who puts out Trollope books with no commas at all and publishes Pride and Whatever? How far down does the spiral reach? I wonder.


5 thoughts on “A World Without Commas, and Other Terrifying Specters

  1. Oh, my.
    I love Trollope, too. In fact, I read the GIANTEST Trollope book whose title I can’t recall in this moment through my first pregnancy which culminated in my daughter. She was born eighteen years ago tomorrow. What coincidence to have read this post today, on the eve of her birthday!


  2. Happy birthday to her! I bet it was The Way We Live Now. Or maybe, Can You Forgive Her?
    I read a lot of Trollope lying exhausted in a bed next to Diana while she regarded the room alertly. Just thinking about it makes me tired.


  3. My father gave me “The Last Chronicle of Barset” for Christmas when I was 17 (he was an English professor) and I backtracked and got the whole series, and just now (17 years later) finished the whole Palliser series too… there is nothing like Trollope, but… the punctuation is so important. I have a friend that just could not handle the Pallisers. All of those self-abnegating women who will never love another man. For whatever reason, Glencora cancelled them all out for me (even Lady Laura) and I now count that as my favorite series. Excited to read “The Way We Live Now.”


  4. Well now I’ve really got to go back and read some Trollope. I’ve read one of them but it was a very long time ago and I don’t remember anything about it.
    I shouldn’t, because it’s a travesty, but I totally lolled at the images in this post. Then I went to their website and lolled even more. Pride and Platypus?! I almost want to buy that one (but the lack of commas would drive me mad, and not in a romantic Victorian way).


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