Monday, May 11, 2009

And, To Make A Long Story Short...

...too late!

Has anyone else ever really enjoyed a book but found it to be too unbearably looooong? I'm talking about a book that has the potential to be life-changing, and so you want to read every single word on every single page, but the book just drags on and on and you're praying that you can finish it before the year is up so that you can move on to something else?

I'm currently about 500 pages into Middlemarch, by George Eliot, and it's an excellent book. Her characterizations are superb, and I'm enjoying the book for the most part, but it's 800 freaking pages long! Honestly, it's like three great novels crammed between two covers trying to masquerade as one story and it's absolutely killing me. At the same time, however, I want to have read it (if that makes any sense), but I've been steadily plowing through it for the last two months. She apparently never heard that "brevity is the soul of wit"... or at least, she apparently never believed it.

I've experienced this particular phenomenon of a good-book-gone-terribly-long only twice before: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (I ended up skipping the John Galt speech at the end because I felt she had already made her point tolerably well and I really didn't need to read "Capitalism is gerrr-reat!" one more time) and The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles, in which I virtually skipped through the chapters right before the climax of the novel.

I'm sure this says something about the attention span of modern readers (of which I've read numerous articles), but I'm not sure it's as negative as many of those articles argue. My time is valuable, so I'm therefore hesitant to spend it reading things that aren't really doing anything for me. Either way, I'll be damn sure never to write a book that exceeds four hundred pages in length.

7 comments:

Daniele said...

She may have heard the phrase, but like the character who said it, ignored its meaning.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

The irony is almost painful.

Homero said...

I just finished "The Hour I first Believed"... 700+ pages of a novel that could have been told in 350. Worst. Book. Ever.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

The problem is that once you dedicate yourself enough to read 400 pages, you're too committed to the idea of finishing the book and you can't put it down without feeling as though you wasted your time. So instead, you waste even MORE time finishing a book that you probably could have lived without reading--cough--Wuthering Heights--cough.

But I'll be sure to not read "The Hour I First Believed" with an un-recommendation like that.

Homero said...

Oh, you should check out my Amazon review...

Homero said...

See me tear Wally Lamb a new one...

http://www.amazon.com/review/R2LDQRYFKS457I/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

"I ask this as a literary person, a reader and a lover of literature: Is American literature so pathetic that we essentially use a novel of consiberable length as a justifiable comparison to the Russian Novel?"

Ha!

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