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November 1, 2007 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Why do we like, have to like, read so much in school? Why can't there be like, a library with only like, books with like, not a lot of pages? Lazy Library, for those with short attention spans, tight schedules, or a report due tomorrow.
posted by Rykey (27 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Popular searches: HARRY POTTER

Ha!
posted by DU at 5:41 PM on November 1, 2007


Y'know - I think this is a such a great idea. I like reading, I really do. I really like reading non-fiction. I read quite a bit of it.

But it appears that many writers (Jared Diamond I am looking at you) think that value for money is only achieved by stretching a few good, solid, interesting ideas from a 2-400 page book into a 800+ page repetitive tome.

Movie reviewers happily complain if a movie runs over 2 hours or so unless it really, really needs to. Book reviewers don't. They should. If Voltaire could get Candide into 144 pages and Machiavelli could get The Prince down to a similar size someone's observations about whatever in the modern world should be similarly squeezable.
posted by sien at 5:54 PM on November 1, 2007


Seriously. Proust represents five and a half years of my life that I'll never get back.
posted by Reggie Digest at 5:58 PM on November 1, 2007


You have to watch out for the short reads, though. They can require that much more focus than the longer, sloppier ones, so the total time reading can be the same.
posted by schroedinger at 6:05 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oxford has been publishing for years a series called Very Short Introductions which are extended essays written by experts on a wide variety of subjects. Each booklet is around 100-150 pages. The one on History for example is excellent.
posted by stbalbach at 6:24 PM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think this is a completely worthless tool.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:28 PM on November 1, 2007


You can build your own
posted by b1tr0t at 6:33 PM on November 1, 2007


I think this is a completely worthless tool.

The real news here is that anyone who thinks they could build a better Amazon.com can.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:34 PM on November 1, 2007


Harry Potter 2007 Wall Calendar: Featuring Promotional Poster Art from All of the Harry Potter Films
ยป $13.99 new, $7.94 used

24 pages


HA!

FWIW, Infinite Jest was finitely long, but infinitely worth it. What that book taught me, about reading (and life):
It's about the journey, not the destination.

Other than students, why would you read a book to be done with it? Enjoy the trip.
posted by Espoo2 at 7:05 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


kids can't read the writing on the blackboard, much less the writing on the wall
posted by mr_book at 7:07 PM on November 1, 2007


Old journalism saying: "Sorry this article is so long. I didn't have time to write a short one."

In journalism, brevity and clarity are really joined at the hip - as it is in books that are essentially journalism, including the Jared Diamond example above. His books are essentially (over-)extended think-pieces. It is not a huge disciplinary step from a 10,000-word New Yorker or LRB piece to a 60,000-word book. If it can be abbreviated without sacrificing anything from the argument, then it should have been abbreviated.

However, in creative writing - and I'm not limiting this to fiction, necessarily, I can think of examples in history and other fields of non-fiction - I feel quite strongly that the role of the author is not simply to expound a story, but also to take the reader on a walk through the words they have chosen. Abbreviation smashes the author's design, and renders the exercise almost pointless. If it's a bad book, scan, skip pages, and you'll "find out what happens" without wasting too much time; at least your still in a relationship with the text as the author intended it. If you're reading for the vicarious pleasure of watching a plot unfold and don't care about the writing, then I suppose abbreviated texts would do that for you, but why not read short stories?

/fuddy-duddy
posted by WPW at 7:09 PM on November 1, 2007


This failed to return any Stephen King books. What am I doing wrong?
posted by maxwelton at 7:17 PM on November 1, 2007


WPW: The Economist is a good example of keeping it short. They rarely allow articles to run over a page or two. Whereas the New Yorker, Wired and many other US magazines appear to believe that you are paying for pages, not ideas.

And for academic books where completeness is really important length is not an issue.

As far as fiction goes, sure, abbreviating is often not a good idea. But many authors go the other way and extend beyond belief.

I would go on, but this comment is already long enough....
posted by sien at 7:25 PM on November 1, 2007


Old journalism saying: "Sorry this article is so long. I didn't have time to write a short one."

I love that one.

Makes me wonder how long Vonnegut's and Hemingway's books would be if they weren't such kickass word economists.
posted by Rykey at 8:25 PM on November 1, 2007


I love the Economist. I believe their name relates to the amount of words they use rather than the subject material. Truth in advertising and all...
posted by Eekacat at 8:29 PM on November 1, 2007


Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus weighs in at a mere 56 pages. Good luck with that one kids.
posted by gwint at 8:30 PM on November 1, 2007


I was gonna write a long comment about how much I think this thing sucks, but I'm too lazy.
posted by papakwanz at 9:20 PM on November 1, 2007


90%
posted by porpoise at 9:23 PM on November 1, 2007


I had a mentor who was invited to speak at a lot of conferences. He would always tell them how much time he'd need to prepare. He's say:
If you want me to speak for 15 minutes I'll need 2 weeks to prepare, for 30 minutes I'll need one week, 45 minutes, 2 days. If you want me to speak for an hour or more, I can start talking right now.
I think that applies to books, I'm just not sure how.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:40 PM on November 1, 2007


I think it just applies to transcribed books.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:17 PM on November 1, 2007


Now available in new Presidential strength!
posted by kcds at 2:22 AM on November 2, 2007


I didn't see The Great Gatsby listed. It comes in at under 200 pages and is a wonderful short novel. Some of Raymond Chandler's Marlowe novels are under 200 pages. Also, Melleville's Moby Dick is under 200 pages. (tiny type edition.)
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:56 AM on November 2, 2007


The best book I know for an introduction to the French Revolution was about 80-100 pages.

Though I didn't find Jared Diamond long at all - his book was subjectively much shorter than many physically shorter, but drier books I have read.
posted by jb at 4:58 AM on November 2, 2007


schroedinger: You have to watch out for the short reads, though. They can require that much more focus than the longer, sloppier ones, so the total time reading can be the same.

This is a Good Thing.
posted by the number 17 at 6:30 AM on November 2, 2007


OH MY GOD READING THE HORROR HOW CAN YOU STAND IT GET IT OVER WITH AS FAST AS YOU CAN!1!11!!!
posted by agregoli at 8:11 AM on November 2, 2007


Number 17, I haven't got a problem with in-depth reads, I just find it amusing that someone might pick, say, The Metamorphosis because it's smaller than War and Peace and expect the brain commitment to be smaller, too.
posted by schroedinger at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2007


Brevity can be a virtue, but the logic behind this squicks:

The average reader doesn't require multiple chapters of analogies, anecdotes, and otherwise redundant storytelling to understand what is typically, a simple (though possibly profound) point. Add to this the fact that people have a greater amount of distractions competing for smaller and smaller slots of their time and attention. . .

Perhaps people who are too important and busy to read shouldn't read? After all, arrogance and ignorance are such a compelling combination.
posted by jrochest at 3:37 PM on November 2, 2007


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