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(Independent)   How the Internet is killing off long, complex novels like Gravity's Rainbow or Infinite Jest by ruining our collective attention span. But let's be honest: nobody actually spent six weeks reading those books in the fir ... oh look, SHINY   (independent.co.uk) divider line 125
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827 clicks; posted to Entertainment » on 16 Jun 2014 at 2:56 PM (32 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-06-16 01:42:29 PM  
Bullsh*t.

But, yes, writing styles keep changing, and the consumers' appetites keep changing. If you're going to write long and complex, you'd best keep it entertaining as well. Neal Stephenson keeps putting out long novels, even on esoteric subjects, Peter F. Hamilton does as well. Richard K. Morgan too. Pat Conroy does as well. The difficulty is that a lot of folks seem to think that "complex" means exhaustive descriptions or vapid dialog about little of import, and substitute long windedness for plot.

Plot is the thing. Sh*t has to happen, otherwise, it's a f*cking masturbation, and no amount of pretty exposition is going to replace characters doing. You set the scene, you you build the world, you set the mood, you create the hooks, but your characters had best DO something with all that.

Literary fiction often has a tendency to love setting the scene so very well, that they don't want to let anyone actually live in the f*cking world they create. And THAT style IS fading, thankfully.
 
2014-06-16 02:36:40 PM  
TL;DR can someone summarize the headline?
 
2014-06-16 03:00:49 PM  
Yet the internet is allowing for us to be able to binge watch television shows (like Battlestar Galactica) in massive, week-long marathons.
 
2014-06-16 03:01:19 PM  

cato113: TL;DR can someone summarize the headline?


Internet > books
 
2014-06-16 03:02:12 PM  
Gravity's Rainbow is 770 pages, according to Amazon. Are you really only capable of reading less than 20 pages per day, subby?
 
2014-06-16 03:04:54 PM  
So what he's really saying is he writes books that only retards read
 
2014-06-16 03:05:53 PM  

hubiestubert: Bullsh*t.

But, yes, writing styles keep changing, and the consumers' appetites keep changing. If you're going to write long and complex, you'd best keep it entertaining as well. Neal Stephenson keeps putting out long novels, even on esoteric subjects, Peter F. Hamilton does as well. Richard K. Morgan too. Pat Conroy does as well. The difficulty is that a lot of folks seem to think that "complex" means exhaustive descriptions or vapid dialog about little of import, and substitute long windedness for plot.

Plot is the thing. Sh*t has to happen, otherwise, it's a f*cking masturbation, and no amount of pretty exposition is going to replace characters doing. You set the scene, you you build the world, you set the mood, you create the hooks, but your characters had best DO something with all that.

Literary fiction often has a tendency to love setting the scene so very well, that they don't want to let anyone actually live in the f*cking world they create. And THAT style IS fading, thankfully.


You know I really enjoy (and enjoyed) reading the Simillarion, Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books and never thought anything of them.  Then I read somehwere (maybe here?) about the 'joke' about JRR Tolkien taking 2-3 paragraphs talking about a building but then 1 sentence about a big war that happened.

I was like, "wwhhaat?!"  Then when I re-read the books/sections of the books, I was like, "huh, I guess that's correct."

/whatever that means...
//just like to read and not think about what I'm reading I guess *shrugs*
 
2014-06-16 03:06:40 PM  
The internet is killing off long, complex novels.

Most fantasy books that come out are at least in a trilogy if not a series.

Long books are bad, but multiple books are good?
 
2014-06-16 03:08:52 PM  

hubiestubert: Plot is the thing. Sh*t has to happen, otherwise, it's a f*cking masturbation, and no amount of pretty exposition is going to replace characters doing. You set the scene, you you build the world, you set the mood, you create the hooks, but your characters had best DO something with all that.


Arguably, that's kind of new (not really new, but sorta). Now that reading as entertainment has to compete against other things, authors need to pass a higher bar. I'm okay with that.

As an aside, I have an author friend who reads Gravity's Rainbow every couple of years. He says he likes it. Not so sure about that guy...
 
2014-06-16 03:09:36 PM  
Also if people are so ADHD that long books are bad, then wouldn't short story books be doing great? Alas, it's hard out there for a short story writer. I routinely hear from small presses that their anthologies just do not sell.
 
2014-06-16 03:10:06 PM  
Infinite Jest wasn't that great. It was okay, but I don't think it deserves the hype it gets.
Needs editing.
 
2014-06-16 03:11:15 PM  
My attention span is fine. I just have more options on how to spend my time. Thirty years ago, I had no internet, and no TV, so I worked my way through long novels. I remember reading the Dune trilogy one summer. I don't remember how many days it took to finish. Now that's some poorly-written, slow moving crap, but I made it through.
 
2014-06-16 03:11:34 PM  

Aidan: As an aside, I have an author friend who reads Gravity's Rainbow every couple of years. He says he likes it. Not so sure about that guy...


Probably just to be able to say that he reads Gravity's Rainbow every couple of years

/Haven't read it.
 
2014-06-16 03:11:43 PM  

The Crepes of Wrath: Gravity's Rainbow is 770 pages, according to Amazon. Are you really only capable of reading less than 20 pages per day, subby?


20 pages a day of Gravity's Rainbow sounds about right. It's something of a taxing read. Open the book at random, and start there. Do this every day until all the pages are read. You'll not ever be anymore lost than if you began at page 1 and read it straight through, cover -to-cover.
 
2014-06-16 03:13:00 PM  
I'm sorry your book sucked.
 
2014-06-16 03:13:41 PM  

Lackofname: The internet is killing off long, complex novels.

Most fantasy books that come out are at least in a trilogy if not a series.

Long books are bad, but multiple books are good?


I'm guessing that's more of a publisher/money decision. Why make a reader pay once for 400 pages, when you can make him pay 3 times for 150 pages each (with padding)? Also, series are a more dependable form of income (AFAIK). You take the same characters and say "Hey. New book! Same people! You'll love it!", so you get people who are invested from the first book to buy the new one, and potentially get new people seeing the various books on the series to buy in. Furthermore, you take up more shelf space. And so on.

Also... Who was it that was heavily into trilogies... Baen? One of the big-name publishers had a big hand in encouraging series writing.
 
2014-06-16 03:14:07 PM  
I tried Gravity's Rainbow. I wanted to like it, I really did. My interest began to wane pretty fast when the first five pages of ultra-dense prose introduced about three hundred characters. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind, but I didn't feel like plowing through it.
 
2014-06-16 03:14:27 PM  
The "state of constant distraction" created by the internet, email and instant messaging is killing the traditional literary novel, a leading British author has claimed.

A fiction writer is suddenly an expert on psychology and economics of book business. Dunning-Kruger?
 
2014-06-16 03:14:46 PM  

cato113: TL;DR can someone summarize the headline?


Basically, boobs.

i.imgur.com
 
2014-06-16 03:16:52 PM  
5216 pages, #3 book on Amazon and 204 days in the top 100. I'm not even posting the link. Take a farking guess.
 
2014-06-16 03:17:19 PM  
Post modernist literature sucks anyways.
 
2014-06-16 03:17:44 PM  
I've tried three times to read Gravity's Rainbow. I finally gave up because A) I just didn't care about any of the characters B) I'm sick to death of WWII narratives and C) I've had my fill of "reality isn't real" plots. Which is a shame, because the whole intro section up to the banana breakfast scene was a wonderful beginning.
 
2014-06-16 03:18:52 PM  
I don't like particularly long books. Yeah, I do have the ADD; I cannot read a physical book without sitting it down every few paragraphs.

But it's also a vision thing. I do most of my reading with audiobooks, and your average book is about 10-13 hours long (175 pages = 5 hours). 23 hours on one book feels like a pain. Sanderson's newest series, the first book is 45.37 hours. I'm sorry, that's just too much farking time.
 
2014-06-16 03:20:47 PM  

Frank N Stein: Post modernist literature sucks anyways.


Very possibly. I read War and Peace and loved it. That's on par with Gravity's Rainbow in terms of possible slog. Although I did like Pynchon's V, so who knows?
 
2014-06-16 03:23:14 PM  

Lackofname: I don't like particularly long books. Yeah, I do have the ADD; I cannot read a physical book without sitting it down every few paragraphs.


Funny. I've got (mild?) inattentive ADD, and I'm fine with books. Mind you I read them at breakneck speed and couldn't tell you what the protagonists' names are 30 minutes after I'm done... :P
 
2014-06-16 03:24:54 PM  
I dont understand the problem.  We have had an example of a very complex book exploding onto the scene.  I mean just about everyone read it or have read sections of its text.  I know it might not be in the mind of prudes the most correct book out there but 50 shades is the most complex book I have ever read.
 
2014-06-16 03:25:24 PM  
The Goldfinch seems to be doing just fine at 700+ pages.

Besides, the author simply has to break up his verbose novel up into a trilogy.   The public farking hates a big 900 page meandering novel, but they love 3 separate meandering 350 page novels.  (ie Stieg Larsson)
 
2014-06-16 03:25:59 PM  
Cryptonomicon would like to have a word.

Hell, anything by Neal Stephenson is  a slog and a half.
 
2014-06-16 03:26:10 PM  
I typically read two or three books at a time, so "takes a long time to finish a book" to me has never been a problem.  I like it that way.

/ History of the Roman Republic
// History of the Roman Empire
/// House of Leaves
//// Fark!
 
2014-06-16 03:26:50 PM  
That's why we only read short children's books these days, like Harry Potter.
 
2014-06-16 03:27:53 PM  

exparrot: Cryptonomicon would like to have a word.

Hell, anything by Neal Stephenson is  a slog and a half.


Oh god Reamde.

There was so much deadwood that could've been cut from that.
 
2014-06-16 03:28:54 PM  

hubiestubert: Neal Stephenson


Darling of the computer age, published a 2200 page novel (three volumes) in the last decade.  Writes his first draft in longhand.

Also: in the last ten years, we've seen the House of Leaves, Murakari's 1Q84 and even something like Middlesex, which is much more complex than the average multi-generational saga.

I see a lot of old books and I buy a lot of old books, and from the 1920s through the early 1960s, novels were (with rare "epic" exception) 200-300 pages.  The sort of thing a commuter or housewife could read in a couple of days, meaning that people could read several novels a week.

I will say that I'm learning that I have to focus my reading time: I can spend six hours on the Internet, reading completely random stuff, or I can go off and read a book.
 
2014-06-16 03:30:26 PM  
 
2014-06-16 03:32:08 PM  

hubiestubert: Bullsh*t.

But, yes, writing styles keep changing, and the consumers' appetites keep changing. If you're going to write long and complex, you'd best keep it entertaining as well. Neal Stephenson keeps putting out long novels, even on esoteric subjects, Peter F. Hamilton does as well. Richard K. Morgan too. Pat Conroy does as well. The difficulty is that a lot of folks seem to think that "complex" means exhaustive descriptions or vapid dialog about little of import, and substitute long windedness for plot.

Plot is the thing. Sh*t has to happen, otherwise, it's a f*cking masturbation, and no amount of pretty exposition is going to replace characters doing. You set the scene, you you build the world, you set the mood, you create the hooks, but your characters had best DO something with all that.

Literary fiction often has a tendency to love setting the scene so very well, that they don't want to let anyone actually live in the f*cking world they create. And THAT style IS fading, thankfully.


Back in the old days, guys like Dickens were paid by the word and encouraged to keep people hooked by the chapter with cliffhangers or else just a " filler episode." Furthermore, in the days before mass visual media like TV and movies, a writer had to work harder to set the scene, since scenery porn had to be created from scratch for people that hadn't visited any place more than 20 miles away. Thus, endless descriptions of the flowers, gables, and architectural filigrees on a house when a modern writer can use visual shorthand such as "the house looked like Tara or the Bates house or Amityville, etc.
 
2014-06-16 03:32:08 PM  
Game of Thrones, anything by Jordan, and on and on and on.
 
2014-06-16 03:32:50 PM  
Dwight_Yeast:

I see a lot of old books and I buy a lot of old books, and from the 1920s through the early 1960s, novels were (with rare "epic" exception) 200-300 pages.  The sort of thing a commuter or housewife could read in a couple of days, meaning that people could read several novels a week.

And publishers don't like novellas-short novels (between 40-90,000 words). You'll get those in ebooks and maybe, maybe small presses, but traditional publishers typically won't touch a thing under 90,000.

Just the other day I discovered the Chronicles of Amber. Each Chronicle is 175 pages. I'm wondering how the hell these were published. Were 3 chronicles packaged in an omnibous or did they really print 175 booklets?
 
2014-06-16 03:33:51 PM  

The Crepes of Wrath: Gravity's Rainbow is 770 pages, according to Amazon. Are you really only capable of reading less than 20 pages per day, subby?


It also sucks. Being deliberately confusing is not the same thing as complexity and obscenity for the sake of obscenity is not the same as being "transgressive".
 
2014-06-16 03:34:39 PM  

Fano: hubiestubert: Bullsh*t.

But, yes, writing styles keep changing, and the consumers' appetites keep changing. If you're going to write long and complex, you'd best keep it entertaining as well. Neal Stephenson keeps putting out long novels, even on esoteric subjects, Peter F. Hamilton does as well. Richard K. Morgan too. Pat Conroy does as well. The difficulty is that a lot of folks seem to think that "complex" means exhaustive descriptions or vapid dialog about little of import, and substitute long windedness for plot.

Plot is the thing. Sh*t has to happen, otherwise, it's a f*cking masturbation, and no amount of pretty exposition is going to replace characters doing. You set the scene, you you build the world, you set the mood, you create the hooks, but your characters had best DO something with all that.

Literary fiction often has a tendency to love setting the scene so very well, that they don't want to let anyone actually live in the f*cking world they create. And THAT style IS fading, thankfully.

Back in the old days, guys like Dickens were paid by the word and encouraged to keep people hooked by the chapter with cliffhangers or else just a " filler episode."


Also many books were originally serialized in the newspapers, and so cliffhangers were there to keep people going to the next newspaper.
 
2014-06-16 03:36:26 PM  

MrSteve007: Yet the internet is allowing for us to be able to binge watch television shows (like Battlestar Galactica) in massive, week-long marathons.


It only took me a day to get through Cumberbatch's Parade's End.

/a seriously moving ending that summed up so much of what WWI did to the countries that fought it
 
2014-06-16 03:37:34 PM  

Wellon Dowd: cato113: TL;DR can someone summarize the headline?

Basically, boobs.

[i.imgur.com image 315x480]


I"m temporarily blind so I'll need to read that book with my fingers
 
2014-06-16 03:40:16 PM  
"A screaming comes across the sky..."  Yes, it is one of the greatest opening lines, paragraphs in modern literature, according to those who take time to sort such things out.  But I'd have to say that if you did not read this novel by 1985, it would be hard to understand and appreciate now.  Context is important.  I like Pynchon, but I have never finished the book.  Vineland and V are 2 books that I have read and re-read and would recommend highly.
 
2014-06-16 03:41:27 PM  
Translation: People are ignoring "award" books loved by the literary editors of newspapers and finding things based on Amazon recommendations/friends on Facebook.
 
2014-06-16 03:42:30 PM  

Delta1212: cato113: TL;DR can someone summarize the headline?

Internet > books


I was told there would be no math.
 
2014-06-16 03:43:30 PM  

exparrot: Cryptonomicon would like to have a word.

Hell, anything by Neal Stephenson is  a slog and a half.

Cryptonomicon

was the last Stephenson book I liked. Quicksilver was like sixteen different Marty Stu characters acting out historical charades. Anathem started off solid, then got more and more goofy until I sprained my eyes rolling them. Not had much time for anything else he's written since.
 
2014-06-16 03:47:15 PM  
Actually, if anything, novels have gotten longer and are spread out over multiple volumes to tell a single story (ie: Harry Potter, Song of Fire & Ice, Wheel of Time, Twilight, etc.), and it's all because of word processors.

Writers can produce words far faster now than they can a hundred years ago, and they can edit on the fly. Editing/proofreading used to be a laborious process of writing and rewriting, now it's just a matter of going back and changing things. I don't have any stats on hand, but I highly doubt writers a century ago produced more than a couple thousand words a day using pen/paper. I can spit that much out in an hour. I once wrote a 9000 page short story in a single night.

If anything, the problem today is that sometimes writers write TOO much. Diarrhea of the keyboard is a serious issue, and some writers drag a story on forever and don't know how to close plot threads and things bog down and meander too much. The speed of typing and the limitless space of software has compelled writers to go all-out. There's something to be said for restraint and tightness, and many writers don't recognize either.
 
2014-06-16 03:48:08 PM  
My problem is once I start reading I can't stop. I can go through a book thats 1,000 pages long in a few days.

Of course to do that I don't sleep, work, eat right, etc. Which is why I don't read as much as I used to.
 
2014-06-16 03:48:44 PM  

Aidan: Lackofname: The internet is killing off long, complex novels.

Most fantasy books that come out are at least in a trilogy if not a series.

Long books are bad, but multiple books are good?

I'm guessing that's more of a publisher/money decision. Why make a reader pay once for 400 pages, when you can make him pay 3 times for 150 pages each (with padding)? Also, series are a more dependable form of income (AFAIK). You take the same characters and say "Hey. New book! Same people! You'll love it!", so you get people who are invested from the first book to buy the new one, and potentially get new people seeing the various books on the series to buy in. Furthermore, you take up more shelf space. And so on.

Also... Who was it that was heavily into trilogies... Baen? One of the big-name publishers had a big hand in encouraging series writing.


Pretty much all literary fantasy has been trilogies/multiple bible-sized books since LOTR, mostly because
the writers put so much time into conceptualizing the world that they don't want any of their efforts to go
to waste, even if it has nothing to do with the story at hand.

It basically killed off the older, short story- and novella-length sword & sorcery fantasy story (a la Robert
E. Howard or Fritz Lieber).
 
2014-06-16 03:51:20 PM  

Lackofname: The internet is killing off long, complex novels.

Most fantasy books that come out are at least in a trilogy if not a series.

Long books are bad, but multiple books are good?


There seems to be a price range that most people are willing to accept for books.  If you go over that amount, even if the book is longer, then people avoid it.  Meanwhile, people have no problem shelling out for twelve Robert Jordan books.

And speaking of Mr. Jordan, the series that never ends is out of control at the moment.  I grew up with trilogies and the occasional quintet.  When a series goes beyond four books, it becomes obvious that the author is adding filler for the sake of adding filler.  Very rarely does a storyline arc need that long to tell.
 
2014-06-16 03:52:30 PM  
The internet killed the long-form novel star.

i.imgur.com
 
2014-06-16 03:53:57 PM  
One thing I have become way more conscious of after spending more time on the internet is opportunity cost. I could read Brothers Karamazov or I could watch 20 movies in that same time span. That's 20 new fiction experiences I could have instead of just one. And thanks to Netflix it's essentially the same price. Why would I do one thing when I could do 20?

I think this makes me a bad person. Or normal. I'm not sure.
 
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