I’m sure there was a post in the Guardian way back about this – it might even have been by the famous author Lee Rourke; anyhow, it occurs that if you look through the books I’ve read in the last 3 years, not one of them’s longer than 500 pages – and in fact, I honestly can’t remember the last book I finished that was over 500 pages (it was probably The Lord of the Rings, though I read it as three books / or Ian Kershaw’s Hitler biography). This is going back about 7-8 years now.
It’s not necessarily for lack of trying. Last year I tried to read Daniel Deronda (got about 150/200 pages in – nothing much was happening), The Egotist (Egoist?) by Meredith (got about 50 pages in – odd style, but bored) and probably some others (Infinite Jest perhaps, though that seems a while back); and then this year there’s Alexander Theroux’s Darconville’s Cat (about 100 / 150 pages in – odd style, but bored); Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives (page 200 or so – nice satire of the Brutalists, but bored); Munif’s Cities of Salt (interesting account of the influence of the West on Saudi Arabian society – about halfway through and might finish one day, but currently stuck).
Why do people write such long books, when they don’t really seem to have that much to say? – In particular, all these books seem to me just to be stretching out their subject matter interminably etc. etc. If you’re going to take up so much of your reader’s time, at least make it interesting, worthwhile. It makes me intimidated ever to pick up a long book again, now I’m quite confident I’ll never get to the end of it. – I must admit, I find non-fiction a lot easier in this regard than fiction.
Anyhow, to defeat my own argument, I should – either this month or next – finish two books over 500 pages; – on the other hand, they’re both books of short stories: – The Treasury of Yiddish Stories (just over 500 pages), and vol 3 of The Arabian Nights (about 550).