Saturday, February 05, 2011

Leisurely Story Telling


After two plus weeks in California, I can definitely see a difference. People take life more leisurely here--except when they get behind the wheel.

And I am also reading Tana French, who although Irish not Californian, seems to have a similar leisurely approach to telling a story.

I can't remember reading a novel where the story unfurled itself at such a restful pace--as if she knew that we would stick with her through long passages where very little happens. But the set-up, characters, and writing are good, very good, and so we do stick around. I remember books like this from my youth. Where the writer assumed you had time, interest. Who else writes with this confidence, believing that 500 pages are not so much? Who do you stick with because the writing is good?

22 comments:

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I'll usually stick with Stephen King, the last one being "Under the Dome' which I really enjoyed. Gregory David Robert's "Shantaram" was 900 pages and I really loved it. For non- fiction, I find Martin Dillon's books very engaging.

pattinase (abbott) said...

King's career began when people were reading longer books and he has the confidence to know we will stick around. The new look in fiction is short, lean and French goes against that grain.

pattinase (abbott) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deb said...

Many mysteries today are 500+ pages (P.D. James, Reginald Hill, Elizabeth George). I don't mind if the story is interesting, but too much "padding" makes the story feel bloated. Still, if the central mystery/story grips me, I continue reading.

I read the three Tana French books last year and liked them all; THE LIKENESS was the best one, IMHO.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am having a bit of trouble telling all the young male characters apart but other than that I like it.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - There are actually several writers I'll stick with, so long as the writing is good. Michael Connelly's definitely one of them.

Deb said...

I forgot to add that after a long book, I find a slim, brisk Maigret the perfect chaser.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Connelly is very good and Simenon ranks at the top of my list for a book I can read and enjoy in two hours.

Ron Scheer said...

Leisurely is OK if it's not superficial and aimless. For me, TREE OF SMOKE (720 pp. in paperback) was not exactly superficial but certainly aimless. I read to the end hoping for a pay-off and boy was I disappointed.

Loren Eaton said...

I rather liked French's In the Woods, but I thought the book's main issue was an unlikeable protagonist rather its length.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I kind of liked that about him.
Ron-my son loved TREE OF SMOKE, but I couldn't get into it. Usually we like the same books but not that one.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Yeah, I usually stay clear of anything over 300 pages as well as ones that have huge blocks of paragraphs, with little dialogue.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it but the older I get the less patience I have to read these super-long books. In the past I had no trouble reading and enjoying King, James Clavell, even Michener, but these days it takes something special to keep me going that long. The long books I read last year were mostly collections of stories, like the Graham Greene and Loren Estleman and Black Mask collections.

After reading Pat Conroy's reading memoir I'm tempted to try WAR AND PEACE again, however.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Me, too but I don't think it's age but rather we have shorter attention spans due to the era we live in. We are used to bite-sized tastes of things. The young people I know are no more willing to read long tomes than we are.

George said...

I just finished reading C.J. Sansom's HEARTSTONE last week. It's a historical novel about mysteries in the 16th Century. HEARTSTONE is 640 pages long, but the story never dragged for me. I've read Anthony Trollope novels that weighed in at over 800 pages and I wished the story was longer! (Ron is right about TREE OF SMOKE. Big Disapointment!)

Charles Gramlich said...

Fewer and fewer books these days. Cormac McCarthur on occassion.

David Cranmer said...

Highsmith can go slow for pages at a time and then Bam! all hell breaks loose. I usually stick with her writing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

If you read Trollope you are very patient indeed.
Highsmith keeps the level of tension up even during the slower parts. She is the master.

Yvette said...

Neal Stephenson. CRYPTONOMICON was over 500 pages but in truth I could have kept reading for another 500. What a wondrous book!

Nancy Clark. THE HILLS AT HOME. Nothing much happens in this book except good writing about an interesting family. I loved it.

Right now I'm reading China Mieville's KRAKEN which runs a little over 500 pages, but I'm moving right along even if sometimes I'm not quite sure where I'm being led.

Todd Mason said...

B. Traven, in a vintage novelet of his I've just finished, took about 10K words to do what most writers might in 4K, but he kept it elegant and engaging enough. He was definitely paid by the word by this market. (FANTASTIC)

Erik Donald France said...

Proust.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You are a better man than I.