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The sentence in question (from "Life-Story" by John Barth):

"Happy birthday," said his wife et cetera, kissing him et cetera to obstruct his view of the end of the sentence he was nearing the end of, playfully refusing to be nay-said so that in fact he did at last as did his fictional character end his ending story endless by interruption, cap his pen.

I'm having trouble understanding how the clause at the end ("cap his pen") fits into the rest of the sentence. It seems to me that "he did at last" finds its predicate in "end his ending story," meaning that unless this part is meant to be read as (cutting out all the irrelevant stuff) "he did end his ending story, cap his pen" as an example of asyndeton, "cap his pen" floats. It's not a comma splice, because "cap his pen" is not an independent clause unless it's meant to be imperative, which doesn't seem likely to me. What am I missing?

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  • You are missing that Barth is a postmodernist and isn't using a conventional style here. Aug 27, 2021 at 2:39
  • Not sure that you're missing anything - certainly you're aware of the possibility that the author didn't always feel obliged to write in what you might call a perfectly parsable manner - but I think the sentence conceivably parses the way you suggest, i.e. as asyndeton, the comma standing in for "and".
    – cruthers
    Aug 27, 2021 at 3:18
  • I can't work it out. If "endless by interruption" were missing I could understand it. But I can't work out how those words fit in.
    – Nemo
    Aug 27, 2021 at 18:42

1 Answer 1

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You mismatched the predicates.

The clause

he did at last as did his fictional character end his ending story endless by interruption, cap his pen.

reads:

he did at last cap his pen, as did his fictional character end his ending story endless by interruption.

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