Robert McCrum is an associate editor for the Observer newspaper in London. He’s written what I think is an interesting analysis of the growth of novels – their literal growth from 200-800 pages. I’m encouraged by his take, since I know that, personally, I’d be happy to end up with a 200 page novel.
Here’s the beginning of the article:
In these lean times, fiction is putting on weight. Take three of the major novels out in the next few weeks. Never mind the quality, which is variable, feel the width. Angelmaker (Heinemann), Nick Harkaway’s second novel, weighs in at 576 pages. My copy of Capital (Faber) by John Lanchester tips the scales at 577 pp. The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood (S&S) is a 420-page debut. Even the Costa winner, Andrew Miller’s Pure (Sceptre), runs to a chunky 352 pages. When last year’s Booker winner, The Sense of an Ending, was first shortlisted, there were some who said that, at 150 pages, it wasn’t really a novel. Whatever happened to the slim volume?
You can blame the computer for the contemporary writer’s reluctance to cut. Again, you can blame the decline of editing at the big imprints, which is actually more apparent than real. Or you can point the finger at the pressures of the marketplace, especially in America.
You can read the rest here: