Great Big Important Novels

From The Millions, an essay called The Stockholm Syndrome Theory of Long Novels. Here is the introduction:

I used to be the kind of reader who gives short shrift to long novels. I used to take a wan pleasure in telling friends who had returned from a tour of duty with War and Peace or The Man Without Qualities with that I’ve-seen-some-things look in their eyes—the thousand-page stare—that they had been wasting their time. In the months it had taken them to plough through one book by some logorrheic modernist or world-encircling Russian, I had read a good eight to ten volumes of svelter dimensions. While they were bench-pressing, say, Infinite Jest for four months solid, I had squared away most of the major Nouveau Romanciers, a fistful of Thomas Bernhards, every goddamned novel Albert Camus ever wrote, and still had time to read some stuff I actually enjoyed.

I tend to prefer shorter books, but then I’m on a quest to read and evaluate different writing styles. One doesn’t need to read a 600-1000 page book to ascertain that. But every once in a while I’ll tackle a big novel as a challenge, hoping that I’ll find it engaging.

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2 thoughts on “Great Big Important Novels”

  1. While reading certain books for our neighborhood book club, I’ve thought of having a tee shirt printed up that says MEGA BIBLION MEGA KAKON. (Were I not so lazy, I’d run up & check Peter Green to see who said that.) It is not the Musils and Tolstoys that wear me down, though.

  2. To many, Atlas Shrugged, especially John Galt’s big speech, is a tough slog. But I liked it. Last year, it was Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas, a truly wonderful biography. And I have a few other big books on my list to tackle—just not his year—staying on mission.

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