Scott Timberg, "Maurice Sendak rewrote the rules with 'Wild Things' " (Los Angeles Times, October 11):
In "Wild Things," a single sentence can take pages to unfold, its meaning changing slightly with each image. And this book with numerous wordless pages ends with a half-sentence and no accompanying image. Sendak works similarly to the directors of the French New Wave, who used jump cuts and other techniques to dislocate their editing. (link)
Apparently this half-sentence has a dislocating effect. But what is this dislocating half-sentence? This, (1):
and it was still hot.
(it refers to Max's supper, still waiting for him on his return from his adventures among the wild things).
Suppose this last page had been this, (2):
And it was still hot.
(with a period at the end of the immediately preceding text). Then we'd have a sentence with an initial coordinator. Such sentences are fiercely reviled in some circles, on the grounds that they are not complete sentences but only sentence fragments. But no reputable writer on usage shares this prejudice. Here's Mark Liberman on No Initial Coordinators:
There is nothing in the grammar of the English language to support a prescription against starting a sentence with and or but — nothing in the norms of speaking and nothing in the usage of the best writers over the entire history of the literary language. Like all languages, English is full of mechanisms to promote coherence by linking a sentence with its discourse context, and on any sensible evaluation, this is a Good Thing. Whoever invented the rule against sentence-intitial and and but, with its a preposterous justification in terms of an alleged defect in sentential "completeness", must have had a tin ear and a dull mind. Nevertheless, this stupid made-up rule has infected the culture so thoroughly that 60% of the AHD's (sensible and well-educated) usage panel accepts it to some degree.
And here I am, following up on Mark:
Mark notes that the AHD note for and rejects NIC out of hand, and he provides a smorgasbord of cites (and statistics) from reputable authors. Similarly MWDEU. Paul Brians, collector of common errors in English, labels sentence-initial coordinators a "non-error". Bryan Garner denies, all over the place, that NIC has any validity. Even the curmudgeonly Robert Hartwell Fiske tells his readers that there's absolutely nothing wrong with sentence-initial coordinators. A point of usage and style on which Liberman and I and the AHD and the MWDEU stand together with Brians and Garner and Fiske (and dozens of other advice writers) is, truly, not a disputed point. NIC is crap.
But still NIC lives on in the popular mind. Presumably Timberg was treating (1) as (2) and criticizing it as a NIC violation (while, perhaps slyly, committing a NIC violation with "And this book with numerous wordless pages ends with a half-sentence …"). (Thanks to Phil Resnik for pointing me to the L.A. Times piece and noting Timberg's NIC violation.)
However, Sendak didn't write (2). He wrote (1), which isn't punctuated as a separate sentence. Here's what Sendak wrote as the final sentence of Wild Things, with line divisions as in the original; the sentence is spread across four pages, with some wordless pages intervening:
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth
and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws
but Max stepped into his private boat and waved good-bye
and sailed back over a year
and in and out of weeks
and through a day
and into the night of his very own room
where he found his supper waiting for him
and it was still hot.
(You'll see that Sendak isn't fond of commas.)
This sentence is a coordination of three clauses: the first in lines 1 and 2, the second (introduced by the coordinator but) in lines 3 through 8, the third (introduced by the coordinator and) in line 9, which is our old friend (1). So, yes, (1) isn't a full sentence, just one clause of a sentence, but there's nothing grammatically wrong with it.
Maybe Timberg expects every page in a children's book to stand on its own as a text, and it looks like most (but not all) children's books are arranged that way, but it's not the way Sendak (with his few words and many images) works. In fact, not one of the four pages above stands on its own as a text (granted, the first is missing only a period).