Discover more from MILLER’S BOOK REVIEW 📚
Open Thread: Too Long, Too Short?
Name a Book That Dragged on Too Long—or Ended Too Soon
Earlier this year I read Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. My copy contained all three volumes in one. It was over eleven hundred pages, but I didn’t mind for a moment; the book blew breezily by. Meanwhile, every time I see Simon Sebag Montefiore’s The World: A Family History on the shelf, I think about those thirteen hundred pages and feel demoralized, like a man gazing up the craggy inclines of Everest, realizing he didn’t bring enough rope.
It’s a subjective judgment, but some books are simply too long, while others end too soon.
When C.S. Lewis released his final volume of the Space Trilogy in 1945, readers instantly recognized a difference between it and the first two in the series. That Hideous Strength is considerably longer than either Out of the Silent Planet or Perelandra.
It wasn’t long before Lewis created an abridged version of the book, retitled The Tortured Planet, to more closely match the length of the first two novels and better appeal to the American market (we apparently had diminished attention spans three quarters of a century ago, too).
“In reducing the original story to a length suitable for this edition,” Lewis explained in the preface, “I believe I have altered nothing but the tempo and the manner. I myself prefer the more leisurely pace—I would not wish even War and Peace or The Faerie Queene any shorter—but some critics may well think this abridgment is also an improvement.“
What I find fascinating about this project and Lewis’s humble admission? He could imagine that some readers might dislike the longer treatment and prefer a shorter version of the book. For them it could be “an improvement” over the original.1
That got me thinking: What books would you say were too long for your taste, and which too short? What’s a book that just seemed to drag on and on, and what’s one that ended too soon?
Leave your comments below.
To prime the pump, I’ll mention one book from both categories. Too long? Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, which would have been doubly fascinating in half the pages. Too short? I just finished re-reading Shusaku Endo’s The Samurai. Both times through I could imagine the story going on and on. I’m hoping to share my review this weekend, along with a look at Endo’s Silence.
Now it’s your turn. Name one or more books that should have been shorter. And waht about one or more that could have profited from more pages?
While you’re here, hit the ❤️ button and subscribe if you haven’t already! It’s free. Thanks!