Posts Tagged ‘novels’

How Long Should a Novel Be?

July 25, 2017

When David O. Selznick produced Gone With the Wind, some Hollywood movie moguls told him it that was too long.  Running time is 3 hours 46 minutes. It has an intermission. His response was that the answer to the question of how long should a movie be, was reportedly, “As long as it is good.”  I would say that reasoning also applies to novels.

I just finished two critically acclaimed novels that some probably feel are long, but, to me, they were not longer than they were good. Compared to two of the greatest novels ever written, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and Tolstoy’s War and Peace, both running more than a thousand pages, A Gentleman in Moscow, hardcover at 462 pages,  and All the Light We Cannot See, hardcover at 522 pagesare really not all that long.

Both are excellent reads. If I had to rate them, I’d list Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See first.  To me, it has greater emotional depth. It’s historical background is World War II. Towles’  A Gentleman in Moscow is, in a sense, more entertaining. It has a lot of laughs, even if its background is the reign of one of the most notorious dictators of all time, Joseph Stalin. The “gentleman” is Count Rostov, who was sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.  I recommend both if you’re into historical fiction.

 

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Finally, “Reading” “Huckleberry Finn”

October 1, 2012

After reading that writers like Ernest Hemingway lavished praise on Mark Twain for writing  “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” I decided that I needed to read the book all the way through.  

 Hemingway wrote in 1934: “The good writers are Henry James, Stephen Crane, and Mark Twain. That’s not the order they’re good in. There is no order for good writers…. All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”  

H.L. Mencken wrote in 1913, “I believe that ‘Huckleberry Finn’ is one of the great masterpieces of the world, that it is the full equal of ‘Don Quixote‘ and ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ that it is vastly better than Gil Blas, ‘Tristram Shandy,’ ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ or ‘Tom Jones.’ “

If those two great American writers had such nice hings to say about “Huckleberry Finn.” I figure I need to read it, and I have found the best way for me to do it. I am listening to the audiobook version as I walk two miles every day.  Patrick Fraley does a brilliant job of reading it, using many different voices to portray the characters. I’m beginning to see why some people consider it the “Great American Novel.”  As you probably know, it has been banned a number of times over the years.  The first time that happened Twain was pleased, saying the banning would sell an additional 25,000 copies.  No doubt subsequent bannings have also sold a lot of copies. 

 

 

Thursday Special at the Friends Bookstore: “The Help”

August 22, 2011

Some rare times movies are actually better than the books from which they were adapted. That was not the case, in my view, as far as The Help is concerned. Not that the movie wasn’t good. To me, it was very well done.  I never expect a movie to be exactly like the book. Each has its own appeal in its own way. 

The biggest difference to me was that the book, brilliantly written by Kathryn Stockett, was more subtle.  The movie was anything but subtle. Another big difference was the way the  story was told.  Sections of the book are narrated by the main characters.  In a way, Stockett’s technique reminds me of Mark Twain’s telling of Huckleberry Finn, arguably the  Great American Novel, through  the words  of Huck.  I thought  she did an excellent job with the dialects.

When I heard the movie was coming out, I rushed to Barnes and Noble and got my copy because I always prefer reading the book before I see the movie.  To me, books usually offer so much more detail and, quite often, insight than movies, but movies, when done well, bring books to life.

Quite often when I see the movie first, I don’t read the book. But, sometimes I do. In this case, I would recommend that you do. As I said, it is brilliantly written. I think you’ll be glad. I’ll even make it easy for you. I’ll bring my copy with me Thursday when I start my Friends of Libraries Bookstore shift at 2 p.m. the Columbus Public Library.  The cover price is $16.  You can buy my copy for $4. First come, first serve

Fortunately, there is a little controversy about the book. It’s hard to get around that when you write about the Jim Crow South.  I say fortunately, because controversy sells, and this book is a runaway best  seller.  That’s as it should be.