Okay, I’m still working on this theory, but it’s been bubbling inside of me ever since I picked up Frank Portman’s Andromeda Klein.
The book clocks in at something like 430 pages (I’d go look but it is upstairs and I am downstairs). That’s a lot of pages, especially for a young adult novel. I blame J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer for this sudden proliferation of hefty tomes aimed at younger readers. I guess once they realized kids would sit through more than twenty pages, all bets were off.
Four-hundred is a lot of pages. It’s intimidating to even contemplate a four-hundred pager. When I approach a four-hundred pager I start to think to myself, “Self, do we really want to dedicate all our time to this. Is it worthy? We could polish off one normal-sized novel and two graphic novels in the time it will take to tackle this behemoth.”
That probably makes me sound like a lazy reader, when the exact opposite is true. I love to read. The more books the better is my motto, and when you start shoving a bunch of three-inch thick tomes in the lineup it starts to clog things up.
The problem with a long book is that the author really has to earn the right to so much of your time. When you write a big book you open yourself up to an extra critical eye. Is this scene absolutely necessary? What does this have to do the story? Are we almost there yet?
The same thing an be said about 3+ hour movies. Every minute counts and if you’re throwing in anything superfluous we’re gonna see it (do you hear me Dark Knight, do you?). And rock & roll songs over three or four minutes often come off as pure aural masturbation (I’m looking at you Colin Meloy and Jeff Tweedy).
Any artist who is producing work meant to be purchased and consumed by 21st century patrons should be extra wary of the amount of time they are asking of these people. We all know that we’re a culture with a severe case of ADD with the Internet, TV, our illegally downloaded mp3s, video games, work, life, etc. etc. etc. all vying for our time. It’s not like when the dead Russians (Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy) were writing and people’s entertainment options were limited to reading a book or going to bed.
But now? Now our time is valuable and anything with what seems like an extra note, minute, or page comes off as self-indulgent. As if the artist is masturbating all over our hard-earned free time.
And it’s not that I’m against long, difficult pieces of art. I’m just saying that maybe we have more long, not-so-difficult art that could be vastly improved with a little bit of editing and self-restraint.