The Ever-Shrinking Novel
I started reading a Madeline L'Engle book, Many Waters, with my kids recently. It's a much longer-than-usual novel, especially for kids, with meandering chapters and small print. And while I consider myself to be a reasonably literate person, I have to admit, I find myself looking ahead and thinking, when is this #!@&! chapter ever going to end?
That's not because it's a young adult book, either. I love reading YA novels. I'm also re-reading one of my all-time favorite books, The Poisonwood Bible, and a friend remarked to me the other day when I mentioned it that she thought the story went on way too long. Indeed, it's quite long, but in this case I savor it--I don't want the story to end. It's a rare book I can say that about.
Meanwhile, my own stories tend to be spare, and I always strive (thought don't always acheive) to write fast-paced page-turners. I like this as both a reader and a writer. I'm part of the trend of the ever-shrinking novel, I guess.
Publishers cite printing costs and competition with other media as the reasons for novels getting shorter and shorter. Do we even care? Is anything being lost as novels get shorter?