Skip to main content

Does the thickness of books scare you ?


I swear I'm not being diplomatic about this, but the answer to that is 'It Depends. Smiley versus Karla trilogy had me in raptures; I nearly cried (with misery) when I got sent the original version of David Copperfield. Both were bricks; and much as I love Dickens, there is something daunting about a thickset copy with font 8 on a Times New Roman (or something similar).

Thick books (strictly excluding text books) are usually fun. Look at A Suitable Boy; I bought it five years back and I'm still ploughing through. I haven't had the time to finish it or get bored of it (but then I'm a serial book-shifter*). And then there is The Old Man and the Sea; it is a pamphlet of a book, and I haven't (or rather couldn't) finished that either. So it depends on the content of the writing. I'm not saying family sagas are more fun or intellectually more stimulating than, well, an old man fishing in the sea, but somehow, the lack of activity in the latter seemed to deaden my interest in the book. To prove my point, look at Of Mice and Men; its near-about the same size as The Old Man and the Sea and it took me one sitting on a lazy summer afternoon to close it. As an introduction to Steinbeck, I couldn't think of a better way to start (more on that in some other post!). Content is the key. And of course, to a great degree, the reader's propensity to capture the content; though a self-understanding of the same comes only from practice.

Then there's the pace. Lee Child's books only look heavy, same as with Dan Brown, but they really aren't. They are nice and catchy and racy and all that gets to the nerves and makes one turn pages like there's no tomorrow (the stories are also mostly based along similar lines). On the other hand, one has Amitav Ghosh; you simply cannot rush past his words. Each sentence is a story in itself, that has to be chewed and digested before moving beyond the full stop. The content is much heavier and thought-provoking, and hence, despite being similarly placed in terms of physical heft, Ghosh's books take significantly longer and more patience to read.

Of course, the font size is another practical aspect. In all honesty, when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child hit the stores, I was internally chuckling with delight at the decent thickness of the book, imagining all sorts of mind-numbing complications and a sleepless nights, but then, it was truly a disappointment. The formatting of the book was more along the lines of a primary school text book - widely spaced, well-sized fonts, with considerable spaces between consecutive dialogues. Really ? What could have been possibly lost - from a reader's point of view - if it had all been spatially condensed along the same lines as the predecessors? It would have saved space in my bag and hurt my shoulder less.

Biographies, by nature, are meant to be quite thickset. And most of them are extremely interesting, since more often than not, they deal with highly public figures and the lesser known details of their lives (at least the way the subject - if alive - would like the reader to know the same). Which brings me to the conclusion, that fact is stranger than fiction, Unless, one has something as preposterously imaginative as the world of the Middle Earth or the Hogwarts or something out of Asimov, it must be really difficult for fiction based on the existing universe to hold its own for long. Human lives and real-life incidents - perhaps by virtue of their having happened already - generate more curiosity than a make-believe world. That cannot be entirely fitted into a book, however thick it gets, but it barely ever gets dull, unless, of course, there is some deficiency in the writing in itself.

Big books aren't scary but aren't always an indication of good things. Unless one is heaping scores, the intent of the writing and the reader's acceptance for the same (based on prior experiences) would be a reasonable guide to start on one. Sometimes, an affiliation to a particular author would force the readers to gobble up anything and everything - thick or thin - that she/he writes. While that is a very good practice in my opinion, more often than not, not all works turn out the same. Then there's peer pressure and sudden bursts of resurfaced passion about an author or a particular story. There are people in this world who still cannot fathom the craze behind Harry Potter, and several more must have begun digging through the memoirs of Sherlock Holmes only over the last few years. In situations such as these, the thickness of the books mostly becomes secondary; the aim is to finish it before the next round of discussion about the topic starts, lest one is reduced to a mute listener. There is absolutely no need to scorn at this habit - I have seen many a so-called culture-buff snigger at such behaviour - after all, this is what culture is all about. From a movie-making point of view, size of the story is a non-issue. So if an enthusiast, unwittingly, embroils herself/himself into a lengthy book, it really is to the reader's advantage. I had bumped into Sebastian Faulks (Birdsong)) that way, and much as I loved the book, I still prefer the BBC One adaptation which introduced me to the book. But Faulks was a find that I am very grateful for.

Size, thus, need not be a yardstick while reading (or anything in life; though, personally, I've only gotten round to reading), for the love of reading is pretty much blind and weight-inconscious.  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Man-Eaters of Kumaon - Jim Corbett

Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 5/5


This one is decidedly a classic, so there is little point in reviewing this book. It is a beautiful one, without doubt. 
Personally, I avoid any form of entertainment (books, movies, plays, anything) which features cruelty - either directly or tacitly - towards animals (I have not yet seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies, Ant Man was uncomfortable too). So deciding to read this book took a certain degree of convincing. 
Much credit goes to the beautiful cover of the book. This one is an Aleph Classics (co-founded by David Davidar of The House of Blue Mangoes fame, and Rupa Publication) edition. In terms of sheer elegance, the cover design is unmatched.

The palette concept of jungle green coupled with the late afternoon sun creates an ambiance even before you delve into the pages. I picked out the book from a thin pile on a shelf in the little HigginBothams book-store near Charing Cross in Ooty, one biting winter evening (more on that later), such w…

Higginbothams of Ooty

It took us some time to decipher that the name of the crossroad was Charing Cross. After all, it is an unexpected name for an Indian crossroad in Tamil Nadu, and the mildly opinionated chap driving us to our hotel had a heavy accent. Charing Cross turned out to be a triangular enclosure, with an imposing fountain (we later discovered that it was named the Adam's Fountain; it is three-tiered, the second one topped by four very colourful cherubs). Since we had arrived in the middle of the afternoon in the thick of winter, the roads were thronging with people and vehicles. Shops were bustling and business appeared brisk. Our driver skilfully negotiated the traffic as we passed woollens shops, gift houses, eateries, groceries and mobile-phone shops. 
We returned to the market later in the evening, after having deposited our luggage. Both my husband and I had been fending off a nasty bout of flu and needed to restock our now near-empty medicine pouch. Charing Cross in the evening (thi…

Top 10 books to read when you are depressed

Books are handy weapons to stave off blues - be it the dregs of the Sunday evening or a nasty bout of flu. When you are depressed, it takes herculean efforts to shake off the feeling. And I'm not even talking about the more severe, clinical form of depression. I can't get myself to pour myself a glass of water the day after Diwali; on Fridays on the other hand, I am the epitome of eternal sunshine. For such moody, dull days, these top 10 books are the surest way to dust a little sparkle in your life.
1) Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog): This is Jerome K. Jerome at his absolute best. It was published some 130 years back and is still capable of eliciting raucous laughter. It is the honest journal of three young, bumbling flatmates and their dog on a river cruise. Look out for some meandering, pedantic pages, but they offer some relief from the relentless humour. 
2) James Herriot'sDog Stories: If you love animals (and dogs, in particular), this is the ultimate…