A few posts back I complained about the length of Stephen King’s 11.22.63 and suggested a decent editor might have done the job. It seems that I’m not the only one having noticed this: Robert McCrum in today’s Observer agrees that fiction appears to be putting on weight. I suspect that his quote of EM Forster may have a great deal of truth in it:
Long books… are usually overpraised because the reader wishes to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.
Whoever you want to blame for this trend of long, weighty books, the editors or the readers, or the market place, it is a fact that books are becoming fatter. Apparently that was not always so and I have many books on my bookshelf that I (and others) consider excellent fiction and are much less demanding on perseverance (to read to the end without skim reading the pages….) and which in my view exhibit much better and crafty editing.
Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, all of Anita Brookner‘s books, and Muriel Spark‘s books are good examples of great but short fiction. William Boyd is another author who is able to craft sentences and paragraphs that are minimalistic but brilliant. Good writing really does deserve good editing!
- Why modern novelists need to watch their weight (guardian.co.uk)