Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Run Ons: Friend or Foe?

I am a huge fan of run on sentences and use them frequently in my writing.  I don't so much consider them a grammatical error, per se, as much as a stylistic device.  So, when is it okay to use run on sentences in fiction (assuming that it's absolutely never okay to do so in expository writing)?  Apparently, never.  I Google searched the question (cool Dickens graphic today by the by) and got absolutely no validation in my results for this grammatical infraction.  However, I discovered that people are passionate about the semi-colon.  In lieu of joining the semi-colon or comma splice cults, I wondered if I could find examples of indisputable run ons in widely read literature.  My cursory search lead me to "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Tictockman by Harlan Ellison (more about that story's publication than you ever needed or wanted to know here).  The story contains a paragraph written entirely in run ons.  Here it is in all it's glory:
"Jelly beans! Millions and billions of purples and yellows and greens and licorice and grape and raspberry and mint and round and smooth and crunchy outside and soft-mealy inside and sugary and bouncing jouncing tumbling clittering clattering skittering fell on the heads and shoulders and hardhats and carapaces of the Timkin workers, tinkling on the slidewalk and bouncing away and rolling about underfoot and filling the sky on their way down with all the colors of joy and childhood and holidays, coming down in a steady rain, a solid wash, a torrent of color and sweetness out of the sky from above, and entering a universe of sanity and metronomic order with quite-mad coocoo newness. Jelly beans!"
The breaking of grammatical rules in a critique on uniformity is defensible, I'm sure, and I don't think there is any loss of reader understanding.  In my humble opinion, this is a successful use of a run on.  You can read the full text, if you are so inclined, here.

Does anyone have handy another example of a run on used in literature?  Please share...

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