The Stockholm Syndrome of Long Novels

Mark OConnell recently blogged about big novels and how they hold us captive. This post struck a chord with me. At some point, I started reading big novels (that weren’t fantasy, big fantasy novels were one of my early literary addictions). At some point, I actually started enjoying reading big novels. Gravity’s Rainbow, Ulysses, Infinite Jest, Under the Volcano, and just about everything that Neal Stephenson has ever written, including the entirety of the Baroque Cycle. Yes, I do enjoy big novels. Unfortunately, when I started reading YA, I found myself reading fewer and fewer big novels. I wanted to read as many books as possible so I could recommend them to my students. Additionally, I knew that my reluctant readers (and that’s really who I’m reading YA to inspire) are intimidated by big books. So, I’ve strayed away from them, opting instead for quantity over depth. As a result, I think I began reading less. Reading had become a part of my job instead of something I enjoyed. Sure, I still like reading, but I seemed to be reading for my students more than my own enjoyment.

On the plus side, I think that these longer books serve to counteract the ADD hyper-connectivity of our twitterfied society (something I’m far too guilty of wallowing within). These books take commitment, dedication, and an attention-span. They allow me to get lost in their world, and in so doing, disconnect temporarily from my own.

Summer is here, and I’m giving myself permission to read big books. I’m ready to get captivated. Right now I’m plowing through Under the Harrow by Mark Dunn. I’m open for other suggestions. I’m thinking that Franzen’s Freedom may be next up.

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