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Thread: Cormac McCarthy on Long Books: "Nobody will read it."

  1. #31
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    Well, we're delving into a part of literary history, namely publishing, that I'm pretty much ignorant on. I mean, if books were so expensive, how would non-serialized tomes like the ones you listed (referring to JCamilo's mentioned books) ever gain popularity and profit in the first place? And I'm not trying to be facetious with this question, I just don't understand.

  2. #32
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    I do not think they are all non serialized. Dickens, Dostoievisky and Dumas were for most part. Heck, Dumas even got paid for more pages so he had ghost writers to fill his job...

    I suspect those numbers are for a raising burgoise class to whom those guys wrote (There is no doubt that all cultural products became much more profitable from the 30's of XX century on) and because they would buy 1 volume and read for months, probally like a Sit-con, or re-reading chapters and discussing it.

    Dom Quixote, I saw once a study that linked the spreading of translations of Quixote accross Europe with a significative raising of libraries in the coutries were Quixote arrived (of course, relative numbers, some places had 1 library, jumped to 5). So, volume could be popular. But again, McCarthy is obviously generic, books like Moby Dick or Karamazov are big books and dense books. It is a genre. Not the number of pages exactly.

  3. #33
    Registered User Hyacinthine's Avatar
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    I don't agree with McCarthy, but I do think many books are longer than they need to be; not only does every sentence fail to justify itself, but a good portion fail at it. However, saying nobody will read a long book? No. Obviously not everyone will, but I'll raise my hand to say, yes, I read those books.

    As others have said, I'm not going to put in that investment unless I know it has a good chance of being worth it. David Foster Wallace, sure, he's great, I'll go for it. Mr. No Name, probably not so much, unless I pick up his book out of curiosity and absolutely cannot put it down. But most books aren't of the "absolutely can't put it down" type in the first few pages.

  4. #34
    Internal nebulae TheFifthElement's Avatar
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    I can't wait for 1Q84 to be translated into English, but if I didn't know who Murakami was I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.
    Want to know what I think about books? Check out https://biisbooks.wordpress.com/

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    Stephen King has always written excessively long books. I read Duma Key, and I have to say, that was WAY too long at something like 630 pages. Lots of filler and garbage which an editor should have taken out.

    I disagree on the general principle, though. Though maybe not, lol. Today, we have more distractions for our leisure time than they did 100 years ago, so reading is still important, but in a different way, i.e., not too many people anymore have time to just sit around reading a 1000 page book. Unless you read fast, and I don't - it would take me three months or more to finish a 1,000 page book.

    I do love a good mystery though - Dragon Tattoo was 600 pages and I finished that in three days.

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    I really liked Duma Key.

  7. #37
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    Thanks for posting this link, Mutatis! Mr. McCarthy is someone whom I have a fascination with. Kind of like Thomas Pynchon, so maybe chalk it up to the elusive factor. But more so with McCarthy because he writes these great novels (not that Pynchon doesn't), and then, when you do hear from him, he comes off like a crank who doesn't give a ----. There is another interview from years back where he slams the concept of originality, saying something along the lines of, "The ugly thing is that books come from other books" (paraphrase). Wish I could find that interview. This statement was, I believe, from an interview about Blood Meridian, and he spoke about how Moby Dick played a major part on the novel.

    I may be too tired this morning to think clearly (plus, I'm still pre-coffee), but it seems to me McCarthy is making a distinction between genre-fiction and literary-fiction, i.e. what he calls the "self indulgent" novel. No? In this respect I agree with him. This is just a reiteration of the argument that most people seek catharsis over cerebral engagement. As far as his statement "Nobody will read it," I think his qualification of "nobody" is simply to make a stronger assertion.
    J'ai seul la clef de cette parade sauvage.
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    I have some trouble reading the classics (Madame Bovary and The Brothers Karamazov). I don't think lenghty books will not be read, but the attention and interest span of modern readers has evolved since our world moves much faster. I was reading the letters Ezra Pound exchanged with James Joyce. It took months to get simple dialogue out of the way that would take minutes with e-mail (I still like Ulysses despite its length). I understand what he means but it's not as simple as he states it.

  9. #39

    Buckle up

    the doc feels that mccarthy is talking about the 'business' of book writing w/ the wall street journal...if you want to make money, there is a formula he's seeming to say...

    now the literary artist shouldn't have to feel that his work has to bend to the economics of book writing, but oughta be and be are two different things...

    a 'big, big' book can probably still be written, but it might have to be from a writer that has already created a 'bankable' reputation w/ his or her publisher...

    and considering the publication that he was speaking to, it very well could be that he wanted to discuss the 'business of writing'...

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    I think if you take McCarthy's exact quote and insinuation too literally then of course he is wrong. Everyone knows there are many people out there who will read big books.

    He is generalizing because that how the question was put to him. Therefore in a general perspective, at least for the mainstream market, he is probably more right than wrong.

    A good debate for sure, but I see some opinions voiced like they thought Cormac is vehemently standing by the "fact" that no-one has ever read a 1000+ page book in the past 20 years. Which I'm sure isn't his true opinion.

    In terms of his own work as well, He writes stories at a quick pace, never padding his passages with superfluous paragraphs, so his view on long novels is also going to be a bit affected by his own methods in writing.

    My opinion is I tend to agree with the overall point. the mainstream audience want books they can rush through in a matter of days.
    Last edited by grechzoo; 01-07-2011 at 07:17 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandi View Post
    There are plenty of long Fantasy and Sci-fi being written, along with long Novels. Stephen King just put out a 1000+ page novel...
    Yes, but you can't compare a 1000+ page King novel to a 1000+ page Dostoevsky or Melville novel. If you write a serious, sophisticated literary novel that is 800 pages long, no one would read it, except for some New Yorker reviewer who's lookingto show off.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Syd A View Post
    If you write a serious, sophisticated literary novel that is 800 pages long, no one would read it, except for some New Yorker reviewer who's lookingto show off.
    You speak for everyone?

    I'm not saying a large amount of people would read a book like you describe, but these blanket statements just really irk me.

  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandi View Post
    You speak for everyone?

    I'm not saying a large amount of people would read a book like you describe, but these blanket statements just really irk me.
    Your ire means nothing to me. Not all statements were meant to be taken literally. Nonetheless, one might argue that literally no one would read such a book, because no one (literally) would publish a book that appeals to a tiny minority.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandi View Post
    There are plenty of long Fantasy and Sci-fi being written... Stephen King just put out a 1000+ page novel (Under the Doam), and the very popular Pillars of the Earth is just over a thousand pages.
    He would probably classify these under "any damn thing", along with mysteries. Can you name a "serious" modern novel that is over a 1000 pages long?

  15. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    He would probably classify these under "any damn thing", along with mysteries. Can you name a "serious" modern novel that is over a 1000 pages long?
    No, but that doesn't mean there isn't one out there somewhere, and if it were, I wouldn't be the person who would no, most likely .

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