Wonderful, Brilliant Uses of the Semi-Colon

“That was how it began, that was all it meant to me; I am not sure now, in spite of everything, that it ever really meant more than that to me.”

“I scarcely remember her at all, yet she figured in my nightmares, blind with worms, her hair as dry as metal and brittle as a twig, straining to press me against her body; that body so putrescent, so sickening soft, that it opened, as I clawed and cried, into a breach so enormous as to swallow me alive.”

Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin, 1956

Octavia Butler, “Devil Girl From Mars” Transcript of Remarks at MIT, 1998

This was not a book about prophecy; this was an if-this-goes- on story. This was a cautionary tale, although people have told me it was prophecy. All I have to say to that is “I certainly hope not.”


I have a verse here that I want to read to you from my novel, Parable of the Talents, which I’m just finishing. I should be at home finishing it right now. And the Monica Lewinsky story is why I brought this verse. Here it is:

Beware! All too often, we say what we

hear others say. We see what we are

permitted to see. Much worse, we see what

we’re told that we see. Repetition and pride

are the keys to this. To hear or to see even

an obvious lie again and again and again, is

to say it, almost by reflex, and then to

defend it because we have said it, and to

embrace what we’ve defended. Thus

without thought or intent, we make mere

echoes of ourselves and we say what we

hear others say.

Read the full transcript here.