Today you can read the first issue of Live Oak Review, which is a journal of Southern writing. Now, I love Southern writers (especially Faulkner), but I don't always like the conventions of Southern writing -- I think it needs to be done well, otherwise it just seems like you're making fun of the way Southern people talk and behave. There's a lot of bad regional writing, and with the South, it's easy to succumb to the stereotype, you know, creeping lantana and barbecue smell and church hats and mint juleps and the word "swelter" and all of it. (I hate the word "swelter," but I love the word "lantana." And nobody should talk about "mint juleps" seriously if it's likely they've never had one.) Still, Robert Perry Ivey's poem "The Hunt" is a really good one, and the issue is worth checking out. I speak only for the poetry, though -- I didn't touch the fiction.
Lately, some people have been ragging on me for my use of the Oxford comma. I would like to put it on the record: I am a firm believer in the Oxford comma. I think "she went out for crackers, Cheez Wiz, and gasoline" reads a lot better than "she went out for crackers, Cheez Wiz and gasoline," pure and simple. What do you think about this phenomenon? In some cases, the comma is necessary to resolve ambiguities -- not in the sentences above, which of course are identical in meaning, but for instance in list sentences where the word "and" is also used in a non-list way. The Oxford comma is required to make the distinction between items on the list clear enough and also to make the sentence read more fluidly. Consider this awful picnic:
- She packed elbow macaroni, grilled tofu, macadamia and basil cookies and creamed corn. (vs)
- She packed elbow macaroni, grilled tofu, macadamia and basil cookies, and creamed corn.
- The milkshake choices were strawberry, peanut butter and banana and chocolate. (vs)
- The milkshake choices were strawberry, peanut butter and banana, and chocolate.