What do you do when faced with an immense book, one that very well could take you the rest of your natural life to read?
Do you plod steadily, reading page after page, until the end? Do you break it up: read a little of the big book, then a short book — if only to feel as though you have actually accomplished something?
Or does it depend on the book?
Recently, I discovered that for me, it depends on the book. Drood was one of the longest books I had read in a while, and I was captivated. The first chapter was a little dry to me, but I was rewarded with one of the most original stories on the shelves today.
But it wasn't easy. In fact, it was a challenge. Don't get me wrong: the book was fabulous, and Carole and I will discuss it soon on this blog. However, after a week of staying up late and eschewing most other kinds of entertainment just so I could see what happened next, I was exhausted.
The book was weighty enough, but the story was equally weighty. In this tome were real-life people weaving stories amongst others whom I can only hope are fictitious and even others whom I hoped were real. The story captured the mores of the day with a touch of 19th century sensibility wrapped in modern-enough language. (I love 19th century literature, but some is a little ornamental for my everyday interest.)
Some books can be short (or short enough) and yet feel very long. The first 80 pages of The Mighty Queens of Freeville felt like an eternity. The 7th Victim was the normal length but insufferable.
Even good books can feel long, at least in part: The City of Dreaming Books was a teeny bit slow at the beginning, ramped up to a fevered pitch, then kept going and going. The Lord of the Rings is very complicated and riddled with Elvish and Middle-Earth language, but the story is compelling and a reader is catapulted forward. (One can see a little of the wisdom of breaking the book into three separate novels.)
From time to time, I read recommended books that aren't up my alley, and sometimes those books feel long as well, no matter how many pages. The ones I don't enjoy don't always feel like like an albatross around my neck. For the most part, though, I am keen to continue (or start) a book only if I'm interested enough to give it a certain amount of time or pages.
However, after the thrill that was Drood, I won't worry about a book's length — and I might have a little more courage to pick up the new Dumas find again, after a few years of its presence on the shelves. It's the quality, not the quantity, right?