Short story where silences are represented with unicode symbols?
March 21, 2017 4:29 AM   Subscribe

Discussing silences in text with somebody, I was reminded of a story I read where the (probably Jewish) author sought to write the different kinds of silences that came up when talking to his family by using little symbols - an arrow, a interrobang, a star.

New symbols were introduced and explained as he talked to his different family members - his mother, father, and (?) sister. Much of the text was devoted to characterizing the nature of these symbols/silences - it wasn't used as an aside.

The ending had about ten symbols used in one silence, where others through the text mostly had one or two.

I thought it had been published in A Public Space (an American literary magazine) but this appears not to be the case looking through their archives. I probably read it in a similar magazine or collection with a literary feel.

I don't have the author or title. Although I recall the author's style, specific Googleable phrases escape me. It would be easy to confirm or deny from a small sample if it's paywalled somewhere.
posted by solarion to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Jonathan Safran Foer in the New Yorker? The story I'm thinking of was called A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:15 AM on March 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

The New Yorker piece above is paywalled, but here's a scan (.pdf).
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:28 AM on March 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

For the record, conversation analysis has some fairly standard ways of coding different lengths of silence, see e.g. the system describe on p. 45 here.

Not so artsy and not Unicode, but the way many scientists encode science in verbal communication.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:56 AM on March 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Safran Foer piece is the one. Thank you!

I was also unaware of that formal system, which might be helpful to the discussion.
posted by solarion at 2:35 PM on March 21, 2017

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