Long Novels Will Take You Prisoner

I admit it: I love to read, but long novels intimidate me. Some of my favorite reads have been long novels — The Mists of Avalon, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Eye of the World — and yet, every time the urge to pick up a long novel strikes me, there’s the voice in my head that says, “Are you sure you want to do that?”

Long novels intimidate me because I want to read so many books, and I can’t help but think of how many books I could be reading in the amount of time it takes me to read this one long novel. Right now, I’m in the midst of reading Les Miserables on my Kindle, and my younger sister breezes through dozens of electronic books while I plod through this tome one slow percentage at a time (I became deliriously happy last weekend when I hit 25% completion. That’s a respectable number, right? One that might even imply an end in sight?)

So when I read this article comparing reading a long novel to being a prisoner experiencing Stockholm syndrome, I found myself laughing out loud several times. Admittedly, based on the title, I thought the article was going to be about how writing long novels carries its own version of Stockholm syndrome–how you come to love your “captor”, that is, the work in progress, so much that you have trouble leaving it behind. And so, the words keep piling up. (I’ve written two “super-novels” to date, defined as 120,000 words or more, which is a bit hypocritical from a girl who shies from reading long novels.) Still, although the article is about reading and not writing long novels, there is something for writers to take away. And that is, the act of finishing a long novel inspires such awe in the reader that s/he’s likely to mistake that awe for respect for your work. Maybe it’s worth doing the long novel thing after all.

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One Response to Long Novels Will Take You Prisoner

  1. spoonbridge says:

    This is a thought provoking post. I hadn’t heard reading long novels compared to Stockholm syndrome before, but that’s an interesting comparison. The long novel vs the desire to read many smaller works is one I really feel as well, especially since I’m so easily distracted by all the awesome books I want to read. I’ve been trying to cut down on my “Currently Reading” List on Goodreads, but now I’ve got, in addition to the Bible, four other 500+ page novels to get through in addition to all of the smaller works I’m also reading. I admit, I’ve neglected a few of them over the past months, but I feel I can’t give up any of them completely. How many huge works can a person read at a time before becoming overwhelmed? Are the shorter books a needed break or a hindrance? Perhaps both?

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