In the past few months, scanning the new arrivals at my local library, I have picked up the same paperback novella several times. Drawn to its one-word title and desaturated blue and off-white spine, I never remember why I decided against it on previous occasions. Then I see the descriptive copy on the back cover, which begins with something like “Written in one long incantatory paragraph…” At this point I put it back on the shelf. I have no desire to read a book without paragraph breaks. The lack of white space on the page can make me feel a little panicky, like being on a train in an underground tunnel – what’s my exit strategy? Reading a book, I always glance ahead to see where the section or chapter ends, so I know when I can stop reading if I want or need to. Stopping mid-paragraph is deeply unsatisfying – no sense of closure, no easy way to remember where I left off when I next pick it up.
More… “The Art of the Paragraph”