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13 November 2009

Brief thoughts about length

cormacmccarthy
(Photo via Jim Herrington)

In this morning’s paper I came across this quote from novelist Cormac McCarthy:

    A: The director had the notion that he could put the entire book up on the screen. Well, you can’t do that. You have to pick out the story that you want to tell and put that on the screen. And so he made this four-hour film and then he found that if he was actually going to get it released, he would have to cut it down to two hours.

    Q: Does this issue of length apply to books, too? Is a 1,000-page book somehow too much?

    A: For modern readers, yeah. People apparently only read mystery stories of any length. With mysteries, the longer the better and people will read any damn thing. But the indulgent, 800-page books that were written a hundred years ago are just not going to be written anymore and people need to get used to that. If you think you’re going to write something like “The Brothers Karamazov” or “Moby-Dick,” go ahead. Nobody will read it. I don’t care how good it is, or how smart the readers are. Their intentions, their brains are different.

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Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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