Until I Find A Shorter Book

John Irving’s new novel Until I Find You will be hitting the shelves July 12. The brief description recalls Irving’s breakthrough classic, The World According to Garp, which also presented a growing boy and an eccentric mother. In this case, the boy is an actor rather than a writer, and the mother is a tattoo artist rather than a theoretician of sexuality and gender roles. The themes seem to recall Garp and other Irving novels as well: picaresque adventures, rites of adulthood, and the search for a lost father.

I respect John Irving a lot, but I have to admit a sense of doom upon learning that this book is 848 pages long. I guess 848-page books make great weapons, and if you bring one on a long airplane ride there is little chance of finishing it too early. Other than that, I really can’t see why good novelists are so often attracted to the super-long format. I’d like to hear where you stand on this: do you prefer massively thick books, or not? And what are the chances of you picking up this latest Irving tome, once it’s out?

8 Responses

  1. bring it onif i hold a
    bring it on

    if i hold a fondness for an author and they come out with a new book i’m all for it. if said book is 848 pages long… even better. i tend to devour books like a good curry so the longer they last the happier i am.

    do not be afraid.

  2. yup, totally agree. And you
    yup, totally agree. And you may go by the 50 pages rule – if you don’t like the book after 50 pages (or 40, 30, 10, 1), you’re allowed to stop reading it and no guilt may be felt.

  3. Hey, I do a variation of
    Hey, I do a variation of that, except I call it the 50 words rule.

  4. lol 50 words?!! Gods give an
    lol 50 words?!! Gods give an author a break, why don’t you 😉

    I’ll have to agree with the 50 page rule…especially if it’s an 848 page long one.

  5. I think …A well
    I think …

    A well known-author like John Irving can get away with an 848 page book. He might lose a few casual fans, but die-hards are going to read whatever he writes, and might even be ecstatic to have 848 pages of Irving-ey goodness to devour.

    Last year I read Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon pre-quel trilogy as each books was published at close to or over 1,000 pages each, and I didn’t really mind, though each could have been much shorter with some editing. But I like his storytelling, so.

    I have no idea though, why a first time author would write a book over 300 pages. Who is really going to want to put in the time required to read a 500 page book of an unknown?

    That, and we don’t live in the time of Dickens anymore, where novels were published in serial form, and there were few other forms of diversion besides reading.

    There’s an awful lot of competition for a person’s attention span these days, and devoting a couple hours a night for 3 weeks to read a long book just isn’t that popular. I know that for myself, even if I like a books, if the reading of it goes on for more than two weeks(and I’m a slow reader) I get impatient to move on to something else. When making my selection, I can’t help but think – I could be read this one book, or I could use the same amount of time to read these 3 other books. Of course, this is from someone who’s near to embarking on reading Ulysses.

    Plus there is the weight factor. Try holding up that 848 page bad-boy on the train or bus with one hand,(you’ll have wrists like Hank Aaron in no time) or getting conked in the nose as you fall asleep reading.

  6. I agree with shamatha here,
    I agree with shamatha here, if the book is by someone I am obsessed with or there is some other pull, I’d probably tackle a longer title. Usually though, I opt for shorter books — for all the reasons you say, Jim. And the portability factor is key — am I going to take a huge monster hardcover to my daughter’s swim lessons each week? I don’t think so — unless I can get one of those wheeled backpacks. And I don’t think I could get away with that and not get her one too.

    I’m not much into “Irving-ey goodness” so I don’t think I’ll be checking out this one. Unless they make it into a B&N Classic Starts edition …

  7. Garp and MeaneyI just read
    Garp and Meaney

    I just read two mid-length to long books by Irving – THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANEY. I also have a copy of THE CIDER HOUSE RULES that I want to get to (after I wade through some Pynchon). I would like to read the new Irving volume, despite its length — but I’ll probably wait until it’s in paperback. In other words, yes, but no rush.

  8. 848 would be a cool area
    848 would be a cool area code

    Looking over at my nearest bookshelf, I see 8 spines with Irving on them. I felt a trail off in Widow, and haven’t made it through Circus even though I’ve started it twice.
    I fear I’ve blown my load on Irving.
    But hell, it’s been a while and I can’t count someone who has made me say SNAP! so many times before. We’ll see.

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