For all of you who have either found my blog or webpage at samthefriedman.strikingly.com, I will introduce myself as an Eagle Scout, a Grade 7 soccer referee, a graduate of Quinnipiac University, and currently the Communications Director of the Caesar Rodney Institute (link)
In today’s topic I wonder about the art of reading. The question is: Do people want to read long books anymore? By long I mean any book over 150,000 words (exact pages vary). The topic is irrelevant-consider the following made that the Internet age is a detriment to long form and deep reading/:
In an article published June 16 in the guardian, the article author Alison Flood wrote:
” The sort of lengthy, involved literary fiction written by the likes of Dickens or Faulkner has met its match in the shape of the internet, according to the author Tim Parks, who believes modern readers are too distracted to appreciate serious literary novels.
Parks’s claims follow swiftly on the footsteps of similar assertions made by his fellow novelist Will Self. He said in May that “the literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes”, as “the hallmark of our contemporary culture is an active resistance to difficulty in all its aesthetic manifestations”.”
But some people took umbrage with Parks’ comments.
” Perhaps proving Parks’s point about distractibility, authors took to Twitter to attack his claims, pointing to recent literary hits including Eleanor Catton’s Booker-winning The Luminaries, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winningThe Goldfinch and Hilary Mantel’s Booker-winning Wolf Hall. Writer Lee Rourke called Parks’s essay “yet another wrongheaded bleat against the digital network. Man, Literature has ALWAYS been the network,” adding: “Writers, keep that internet SWITCHED ON.” Others pointed to Frank Kermode’s comment from the 1960s, that “the special fate of the novel, considered as a genre, is to be always dying”.
Sam Jordison, the publisher who picked up Eimear McBride’s stream-of-consciousness novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing after it had been rejected by mainstream presses for years, said that “just because Tim Parks is busy that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other people able and willing to put time in to serious reading – or into serious writing”. McBridewon the Baileys prize earlier this month for a book judges called “engaging, readable, unputdownable”.
“Plenty of people are writing long complicated books. Plenty of people are writing long elaborate sentences. Plenty of people aren’t too. It was ever thus,” said Jordison. “Just as there have always been grumpy older writers predicting all this is going to end.”
Many books published today are generally under 120,000 words. For every Atlas Shrugged, War and Peace, or The Count of Monte Cristo there are dozens and dozens of books which are written to be shorter, simpler, and easy to understand. In a future blogpost we will explore book themes and whether people prefer exploring new worlds or reading about the ones they already know.
What about you? Would you read a novel if it was very long? What would it take to make you sit there for hours, days, weeks, trying to finish a book? Or is there a finite limit to your patience?