Saturday, January 19, 2013

Short and Sweet

Whenever someone recommends a “great read” to me, my first question is: how many pages?

For you see, I simply can’t concentrate on long narratives these days. Give me tiny gems of novels, powerful (and succinct) short stories, haiku instead of epic poem. My ideal book would have a very large font, lots of empty space, and pictures (sort of like Goodnight, Moon, only for adults). Some weeks, the sum total of my reading is a food blog for our dinner recipe, and the church bulletin. Keep it short and sweet, I say!

It’s a shame, because years ago I was the Queen of the Megabook.  Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Galsworthy, Dickens—I loved them all. Nothing pleased me more than plunging into a good loooong tale, with a complex plot and a flotilla of characters setting sail for adventure and conflict. I was the nerdy kid hunkered down in the school library with The Complete Works of Shakespeare, the strange one who packed more books than clothes for family vacations. I read (with pleasure) everything I could get my hands on, and retained a tremendous amount.  

When Rose was in third grade, we were part of a group who formed the area’s first Mother-Daughter Book Club. The girls made the reading selections each month, then we all read and discussed them.  This was a wonderful experience and right up my alley—who couldn’t keep track of the slim tomes chosen by 8 year olds?  As the years passed and tastes turned to lengthier Young Adult novels, I started to notice my focus slipping a bit, but I could still keep up with the group. Couldn’t nowadays, I’m afraid.

Mother Daughter Book Club Field Trip
Now, the masterful sentences and beautiful scenes seem to fade from memory instantly, and I have to quiz myself constantly to remember even the main character’s name, much less what he or she is up to. I belong to a neighborhood book club, and before we get together I cram, I highlight, I write little notes—all so that I can be even somewhat conversant about the volume of choice.  Here, I cheer when the book club selection comes in at 100 pages (up next month, alas, is a 500+ page behemoth. Perhaps I will skip that meeting.)

And not only am I personally drawn to brevity, I even assume my readership is similarly length-challenged.  I keep my blog posts to 500 words. My own books consist of two page essays.  Nothing wrong with that, right?

Right. But there are so many great works of literature that take their time unfolding, and I am missing out on them all.  ADHD is an issue with me, but it’s also my cop-out.

Maybe I’ll give it another shot. Maybe I’ll work my way up, 10 pages at a time, the way I worked up to a decent run from a few steps to two miles.  Anything is possible.

Will 2013 be the year of Proust’s  À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (4211 pages)? Stay tuned!

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