Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hodgepodge 229/365 - Books: In Particular, Big Ones

Last year I read 61 books, as a challenge to myself. This year I think I'm up to 5.

Okay, I just counted: 9, with a tenth arriving in my book report column any day now. It's short—166 pages—with big type and commodious leading, but still it's taking me weeks to read. (I should make a point of finishing it tomorrow. Then I'll have something to write about here. Okay. Done.)

My favorite kind of book is short: less than 200 pages is perfect.

Cover by Robert McGinness,
whom Neil Gaiman blogs
about here
However, this week a much-larger-than-200-pages book arrived in the mail: Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I don't have TV so can't watch the current television adaptation of that book (first published in 2001, and winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards), but it was getting such good reviews that I was curious, and decided that reading the book would be my best bet. And I'm curious about Neil Gaiman anyway: what an imagination! Which I know from only a few sources: the animated film Coraline, the novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane, an aborted attempt at his graphic novel Sandman, vol. 1 (which I need to give another shot), his occasional New Year wishes, his blog. I'd like to experience more of his mind.

Little did I know that the 10th Anniversary "author's preferred edition" of American Gods ("The war had begun and nobody saw it") was 742 pages!  Oy.

That is a scary cover
And that reminded me of another monstrous American classic I have on my bedside shelf: Stephen King's The Stand (the complete and uncut edition, 1990; first published, shorter, in 1978). King, likewise, is a prolific writer whose work I barely know. I've seen movies based on his books, of course—The Shining, Carrie, Dolores Claiborne, The Shawshank Redemption, Misery, Stand by Me, etc.—but the only things I've ever read by him have been a few short pieces, such as a 2001 Vassar College commencement speech and his 20 rules for writers (most of which fall under the category true-but-made-to-be-broken-once-you-gain-experience-with-the-language).

On a long captive drive home from a weeklong winter search management training, my SAR friend Ken told me that The Stand is his favorite book ever. Them's serious words. I figured it warranted a gander, so I ordered it. And since then I have merely gawped at its enormity: 1,153 pages. It's also got smaller type than the Gaiman, and the cut-size is larger (5x8" vs. 4x7.5"): the King weighs 2 pounds, the Gaiman only 1. Page count is illusory: the King is easily twice as long/big/monstrous as the Gaiman. Formidable indeed.

And so/yet, crazily enough: I've decided to make these two books my "reading project" for the rest of the year. I've got six months. It should be possible.

I am also giving myself the "out" of allowing myself to quit if—and only if—either book, for whatever reason, causes me to pitch it across the room in a fit of frustration/anger/pique. I assume, since these books are so well loved—so much so that they both warranted new "author's preferred editions" only ten years after first publication—that that won't happen. But if it does: on to the next monstrous book.

Today, too, my friend Lynn mentioned that she just finished Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth (listed on Amazon as 983 pages) and greatly enjoyed it. Twelfth-century cathedral building might be a nice antidote to apocalyptic war, plague, and eccentricity. I'm going to keep it in mind, in case I actually get into reading humongous books. Anything's possible. Especially now that I'm embarking on a few months of proofreading projects. Engrossing escapist fiction can be just the ticket when I'm trying to wind down from a day of . . . reading.


  1. My point about writers writing about writing: see above. King's book;-)

  2. Please start Gaiman's book first; I want to read your take on it. I've yet to tackle it, either.

    There are two others I'm always tempted to read (and own) but am intimidated by length: Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy. And David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Have you read either of those?