Thursday, December 16, 2010

The latest bestseller - would you like fries with that?

It's worth noting that some of the greatest books ever written are no more than 100-250 pages in length - Dorian Grey, Treasure Island, The War Of The Worlds, Frankenstein, The Great Gatsby - to name just a few.

And yes, there are those 1,000 page plus epics like The Count Of Monte Cristo (a personal favourite), Les Miserables, War And Peace, where in spite of their length, every single word is worth its weight in gold and the reading pleasure immeasurable (try saying that after a few beers, or even after just one.) Ken Follet's The Pillars Of The Earth is a favoutite of mine, and of just about everyone who has ever read it.

That's all good but the point is that every piece of literature doesn't need to be a s long as The Great Wall Of China in order to be a classic tale well told. There's room, plenty of room, for much shorter, faster reads which are every bit as original, as thought provoking, as emotion inducing as the great classics - and even for short stories (remember them?)

So where are they? Why are there so many books where the plot and the character development would've been sharp and focused and satisfying in 300 pages or less, but are generally upsized to 500 plus, 600 plus, 700-800 pages (and would you like fries with that?)

It's not just some books that are guilty of this bigger-is-better supersize-me approach, there's more than a few films and tv miniseries that are also guilty as charged, stretching every scene, every action sequence, every character conflict to excruciating length as if to say, "if we've taken up this much of your time we must be important."

Long-winded - yes. Important - not. Entertaining - might have been, if there'd been a bit of editing.

As clearly stated I'm a fanatical fan of the aforementioned epics, but let's not forget that some of the world's most readable, influential, timeless works, to name a few more, have been books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher In The Rye, The Day Of The Triffids, Rosemary's Baby, The Old Man And Ther Sea, The Thirty Nine Steps...the list goes on, and I don't see why it can't be added to with upcoming and refreshing new authors.

And that day might very well be with us, due to the rise of the ebook, and the ereaders - Kindle, Kobo, Nook, plus the Ipad, the Iphone 4, and the many other gadgets galore that are putting both well known writers and indie author/publishers in the digital spotlight.

Shorter books, and novellas and short fiction, work well in this bold new reading environment, are often priced at just 99c, and are proving popular with readers.

I've more to say on this but I'm going to cut this blog around here before I become a bloatedly overwritten example of my own critique.

As always, your comments are welcome (provided they're not epics) and any tips on brilliant, shorter reads out there then let me know, post them here, I'd love to hear about them.