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View Full Version : The Return of The Big Novel (Guardian Article)



gothicangel
08-18-2013, 04:39 PM
Not convinced that it ever went away, but . . .

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/aug/18/kirsty-gunn-why-big-books-are-back?commentpage=1 (http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/aug/18/kirsty-gunn-why-big-books-are-back?commentpage=1)

thothguard51
08-18-2013, 05:02 PM
Like Gothicangel, I am not sure large books have ever left us. I think it depends on the genre you read within. The article itself was pretty generic, IMHO, but I did like the writers take on are large books worth the investment...

Just as long as they repay us. Reading through 800 pages or so raises expectations in a way other reading doesn't come close to. All that time given to a book - it had better be more than a gimmick, a trick, a post-modern conceit. It had better be a story we haven't heard before, or already read in another version. It had better change us, make us different to how we were when we started - make us bigger, somehow, ourselves.

Amadan
08-18-2013, 05:51 PM
Like Gothicangel, I am not sure large books have ever left us. I think it depends on the genre you read within. The article itself was pretty generic, IMHO, but I did like the writers take on are large books worth the investment...

Just as long as they repay us. Reading through 800 pages or so raises expectations in a way other reading doesn't come close to. All that time given to a book - it had better be more than a gimmick, a trick, a post-modern conceit. It had better be a story we haven't heard before, or already read in another version. It had better change us, make us different to how we were when we started - make us bigger, somehow, ourselves.


I dunno... I loved Robert McCammon's Swan Song, which is just a big knock-off of Stephen King's The Stand. But it was entertaining and actually kept me turning pages for over 900 pages.

I agree, though, that in general, you'd better be offering me something pretty awesome to get me to read a doorstopper.

BethS
08-18-2013, 11:31 PM
Well, this is good news for me, anyway. :)

DamaNegra
08-18-2013, 11:56 PM
The novel, for all its history of "novelty" as a genre, was created for a leisured bourgeois class with time and money on its hands to read. So in that way, it's always been conservative at heart - a product of the economy that engendered it, and struggling always, as poetry never does, to break into the realm of dangerous, unpredictable (so potentially un-sellable) art.

Wait... what? This entire article makes no sense to me. It bases itself on a false premise and draws ridiculous conclusions (big novels are coming back because they make you look more intelligent!) while at the same time managing to be extremely superficial. He spends half his time talking about best-sellers, and then turns around and uses literary novels as his example. I don't even get what the point of this article is.

CrastersBabies
08-19-2013, 03:17 AM
Ahhh! Perhaps the epic fantasy writer can avoid the, "OMG, your book is over 125k words? tssssk tssssk" from other writers now. :)

Polenth
08-19-2013, 04:45 AM
The UK has had longer word counts for some time, so it doesn't seem like news. For example, Tor UK wants books at 95K-150K for adult work. Strange Chemistry wants 70K-100K for young adult.

I'd be more excited if shorter novels were getting more acceptable in the UK, as it would widen the places I could send stuff. My novels aren't really short, but about in the 70-80K mark for adult work, and 60Kish for young adult, so I'm in US word count ranges at the moment.

aruna
08-19-2013, 07:58 AM
So, I no longer need to feel guilty about my 180k words novel? Good! ;)
There was a time, back in the day, when I wouldn't even touch a novel that was less than 800 pages.

blacbird
08-19-2013, 08:51 AM
Ahhh! Perhaps the epic fantasy writer can avoid the, "OMG, your book is over 125k words? tssssk tssssk" from other writers now. :)

It isn't just "epic fantasy" writers involved here. The article is an absurdity. In relatively recent years we've had doorstop novels such as:

And the Ladies of the Club, Helen Hooven Santmyer (1984)
A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth (1993)

. . . many others.

It remains a hell of a lot harder to sell a giant tome than a work of more standard length, regardless of genre. Established writers like Stephen King and John Irving can get huge-volume novels published far more easily than debut novelists can, but there always will be exception. Half a century or so ago we could look at James Michener and Herman Wouk as similar examples.

caw

Samsonet
08-19-2013, 09:13 AM
Classmates thought I was smart for reading Eragon. I don't particularly believe big novels say much about the reader, other than the amount of time they're willing to spend reading.

MumblingSage
08-20-2013, 08:06 PM
Classmates thought I was smart for reading Eragon. I don't particularly believe big novels say much about the reader, other than the amount of time they're willing to spend reading.

And perhaps the amount of time the writer was willing to spend writing... ;D

-Sage, impatient

Yorkist
08-20-2013, 08:29 PM
There was a time, back in the day, when I wouldn't even touch a novel that was less than 800 pages.

Chime!

The article isn't very good but I bet there is some truth to the idea that in hard economic times, people want more entertainment for their dollar, ergo a rise in popularity for doorstoppers.

I recently read a crapfest of a debut novel (The Discovery of Witches) that exceeded 600 pages, which might have actually been pretty good if whittled down to 300 or so.

aruna
08-20-2013, 09:05 PM
Chime!

The article isn't very good but I bet there is some truth to the idea that in hard economic times, people want more entertainment for their dollar, ergo a rise in popularity for doorstoppers.

I recently read a crapfest of a debut novel (The Discovery of Witches) that exceeded 600 pages, which might have actually been pretty good if whittled down to 300 or so.

I also think that big novels hark back to a time when we all had more time to spend immersed in a long, (seemingly) never-ending story. Nowadays everything moves so fast and people want to move on quickly. I think it's a time of short novels, actually; I really doubt that big books are back.

gothicangel
08-20-2013, 10:35 PM
I also think that big novels hark back to a time when we all had more time to spend immersed in a long, (seemingly) never-ending story. Nowadays everything moves so fast and people want to move on quickly. I think it's a time of short novels, actually; I really doubt that big books are back.

I recently read John le Carre's 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.' It was only about 200 pages, but heck it was one of the most difficult books I've read since university.

I've just checked 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' out of the library, but I certainly needed a bit of rest between the two books. :)

Yorkist
08-20-2013, 11:03 PM
I also think that big novels hark back to a time when we all had more time to spend immersed in a long, (seemingly) never-ending story. Nowadays everything moves so fast and people want to move on quickly. I think it's a time of short novels, actually; I really doubt that big books are back.

I'm waiting for the serial novel to come back, since TV shows are so much more popular than movies now, because people like long, continuous storylines but in digestible chunks (sure it doesn't hurt that most good screenwriters left film for television long ago)...

I dunno if there isn't some truth to the doorstopper coming back. Look at the novels du jour of the past decade or so. Hilary Mantel, Elizabeth Kostova? Even Amy Tan's novels weren't exactly short. House of Leaves. Harry Potter.

My perspective is probably colored by the fact that my favorite genres are historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction, and the former two are known for their massive tomes.

Cranky1
08-21-2013, 12:17 AM
Wait... what? This entire article makes no sense to me. It bases itself on a false premise and draws ridiculous conclusions (big novels are coming back because they make you look more intelligent!) while at the same time managing to be extremely superficial. He spends half his time talking about best-sellers, and then turns around and uses literary novels as his example. I don't even get what the point of this article is.

The quote you posted is historically accurate. Original manuscripts were handwritten and could only be afforded by the wealthiest of patrons. By the 1700s and 1800s, books were still something for the elite. Owning many books meant that you had disposable income to waste.

blacbird
08-21-2013, 06:35 AM
I'm waiting for the serial novel to come back,

For the serial novel to come back, the zombie-venue of serial publications needs to come back, in a form people actually take up reading. Considering that the attention span of most readers today is limited to tweets, that seems unlikely at present.

caw

aruna
08-21-2013, 07:52 AM
I recently read John le Carre's 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.' It was only about 200 pages, but heck it was one of the most difficult books I've read since university.

I've just checked 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' out of the library, but I certainly needed a bit of rest between the two books. :)

I loved both books... TTSS is one of my favourites of all time, and George Smiley one of my favourite characters. Try The Little Drummer Girl when you're through with TTSS!

MumblingSage
08-21-2013, 07:40 PM
For the serial novel to come back, the zombie-venue of serial publications needs to come back, in a form people actually take up reading. Considering that the attention span of most readers today is limited to tweets, that seems unlikely at present.

caw

*coughs* Webcomics *shuffles away*

Yes, webcomics are still short, but they show people are seeking out and sticking with serialized stories in some form. Hurray for the Internet.

CrastersBabies
08-22-2013, 04:05 AM
*coughs* Webcomics *shuffles away*

Yes, webcomics are still short, but they show people are seeking out and sticking with serialized stories in some form. Hurray for the Internet.

The great Sausage Yoda speaks again.

(sighs dreamily)