I’ve been considering book bloat. Literary logorrhea. Volume avoirdupois. The fantasy and science fiction best-seller lists seem increasingly dominated by physically hefty books of massive page counts, generally installments of on-going series.
Fine. That is what sells. Many publishers refuse to even consider a manuscript submission that weighs in at under 90,000 words. A larger book can demand a higher price. Series fiction ensures repeat business. And authors enjoy a large canvas to paint in ever more detail of the their painstakingly crafted universes.
For that matter I enjoy reading some of these encyclopedia length series. A large book, a long series, allows for greater immersion. Of course I am reluctant to pick up a book if the cover indicates that it is ‘part one of an ongoing series.’ I’m already committed to enough of those. And frankly, some of them smack of pay-check cashing or hint at the author’s drift, lack of focus, or growing boredom. I fear many of these are begun without a definite end in mind. That suggests a violation of the unspoken agreement with the reader.
And the page-counts! World-spanning epics can use (and abuse) the room to explore a cast of thousands, to delineate entire histories. But more intimately focused novels, bildungsromans and character-centric fiction also display book bloat. Without the same eventfulness of the epics, these books are often in danger of descending into navel-gazing.
So I’m thankful for used-book stores, for old paperbacks from the days when publishers were willing to put out a 185-page novel. I like the smell of the yellowing paper of an old Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. (I just picked up “The Mucker” yesterday. I’ve been looking for a copy.) I like to know that – in between 1,000 page behemoths – I can still enjoy an entire story told in a single, slim volume.
Oh well, just the grousing a pulp-writer in a world of slicks.
What series is currently absorbing your attention?