There is a particular danger in enthusing over a big book. Namely, of becoming one of those people found on university campuses everywhere, who extol the virtues of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (“The footnotes really add another dimension to the narrative”) or Proust (“for the sensory experience”) or Thomas Pynchon (“for the radical deconstruction”). Who really has the time or energy to sit through 1,000 pages if not to just prove something to themselves out of endurance, or as a warped marker of their intellect?
For the record, I am a “big book guy”. I have read Foster Wallace, Pynchon and some Proust. In my defence, most of those texts were read for university courses and while I found them to be complex, multifaceted and linguistically interesting, they could have done with some serious pruning. The only big book that I have read that makes any sense at its length is the one I wish more people would give a chance: Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann.
Read the feature in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 06/05/20]