29 January 2008

In commas and other news

I'm in heaven: my Advanced Rhetoric, Grammar, and Composition class has attracted some geeks of first rank. And here's a story about how I know that.

Yesterday, we were discussing the glories of the short sentence: pithy rhythm-changing attention-grabber, etc. And we considered examples in Richard Wright's "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch," which, by the way, is a terrific essay. My gut felt all strung out after reading it again before class; every time I read it, in fact, I lose a little more gut. And that is very good. Not in a physical dieting way but in a metaphorical way.

Anyway, we were considering short sentences in Wright's essay, a portion of which I was reading aloud for the class. At one point, I interrupted myself, as I often do, to make some stylistic observation about the power of one particular short sentence and followed my comment with, "Amen?" meant more as an inside joke with myself than anything else.

But lo and behold, several members of the class responded with a resounding, "Amen!" which made me want to quit right there and just giggle. But then the hilarity of the moment would really have been lost; it would have only nerdy rather than nerdy funny. So we had to just leave it at that, the amen-ers among us amused, the non-amen-ers confused and/or possibly annoyed.

Isn't that a beautiful story?