Fear of Fat

I have a fear of fat books.  I don’t mean the 500 page kind; I love those.  I’m talking about the fattest-ass books around, the thousand pagers, the ones you can’t balance with one hand.  What’s the reading strategy?  How do you commit to a story that long?

Here are a few of the fatties I’ve always wanted to lay into, the ones I talk about reading ad nauseum — Big Talker! — but never ever pick up.

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28 thoughts on “Fear of Fat

  1. jesslaheyJess

    I hated Atlas Shrugged and was not able to get through Infinite Jest. I’ve read some other biggies – I liked the Forsyte Saga – and two of my 8th graders got through Anna Karenina. It took a good part of the year, but they did it. Generally, if a book is over 400 pages, my assumption is that the author had trouble getting to the point.

  2. lesbrady

    The only real biggies I can recall making it through were Lord of the Rings and Dune. I think they were both in the 900 page range. I’ve read DFW’s short fiction and nonfiction, but never had the nerve to pick up Infinite Jest. However, I did read the first couple pages of that posthumous mishmash his editor put out, and I was almost hooked enough to buy it. In general I blanch dead authors’ works come out, but the phrasing was that good. I’ll keep you posted…=)

    1. Teri Post author

      Please keep me posted on the latest DFW, Les. I keep seeing it and avoiding it. Posthumous publishings give me the creeps. And of course it’s HUGE.

  3. Jess

    Thought of you when I read this quote by Sir Francis Bacon just now: ‘”Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

    I am a fan of this because these big books can be valuable in bits and pieces, not necessarily to be consumed all at once…

  4. lizisilver

    In one of my college writing classes, there was a girl who went everywhere with a copy of Infinite Jest in her hands. She carried it around like a shield or a magic wand, but I never actually saw her crack the thing open to read it. I know I’ll never read it now; I can’t get her image out of my mind and I want a book, not a ball and chain.

  5. Downith

    Two people I know have started Infinite Jest and were enjoying it, but just couldn’t get through it.

    What’s the reading strategy? Retirement? Solitary confinement?

    Wolf Hall has been beside my bed for ages . . .

    1. Teri Post author

      Oooh, Averil, I’m liking your thought here. I always want to know which agent/editor/publisher gave the Okay Nod.

  6. Lyra

    Love them. I just finished “Juliet, Naked” a nice slim book that I really enjoyed. I picked up another slim book last night then put it back. I told my husband that I was reading short until I finish the first draft, no more distractions of epic proportions. He nodded. Smirked.
    I lasted ten minutes before grabbing a fattie I’ve wanted to read. Just checked, 879 pages.

    As for Infinite Jest, I’ve made 2 attempts but that type of writing needs more focus for me. At this point my reading is far too interrupted. I haven’t given up on that baby though, oh no. That’s on the master list.

    I’ve never thought about the how of it. I just really dig long stories that get more and more involved. I like them, I read them. No real plan.

  7. Teri Post author

    I can’t say I’ve never liked a big book — LONESOME DOVE is an all-time favorite and it’s 850 or so pages. I even remember being sad when it was over. Or how about those non-high-brow charmers like THE WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE. Or all of those Diana Gabaldon books!

    Okay, I’m seeing pattern here. The longer they are, the less intellectual they need be. If I ever try and read another Franzen book I hope somebody takes it out of my hand immediately and screams, Don’t Do It!!!!

      1. Teri Post author

        I’m thinking of the nice flowing stories that 1,000 pages while you’re laying on a beach chair somewhere vs. the 1,000 dictum about Hitler’s Germany. Not quite the same reading experience.

        And not that they should be. I’m just thinking I would need Hitler’s Germany in smaller increments.

        As for the Franzen thing, I’m just not a fan of his writing style. I think he’s brilliant, but I don’t enjoy reading his prose.

  8. Rex

    OK, I must admit “Infinite Jest” scares me. Too much intellectual hype. I’d get a hernia carrying around “Suitable Boy”. I have read “Atlas Shrugged”, “Atomic Bomb” and “Rise and Fall”. Loved them all. “Lonesome Dove” is the shortest 900 pages ever written. For vacation, I am trying to pump myself up to jump into “War and Peace”. We’ll see. I could read ten Travis McGee novels in the same time.

  9. lisahgolden

    I read Gone with the Wind on the commuter train in the early 2000s and Anna Karenina on my parents’ front porch in 1987 as I chomped at the bit to leave for a summer in France. Now I read what can be read easily in short visits to the can. One day……..

  10. Laura

    I too haven’t yet tackled Infinite Jest. It’s not that I’m intimidated by huge books, I just seem to have a hard time starting one when I have 15 regular length books on my life.

    For me, reading a thousand pager means I need to really immerse myself in it and read it for hours a day until I’m done. Going in bits and pieces and pausing and taking months (or longer) to read it just doesn’t work for me. But please keep us updated on your progress!

  11. catherine

    I haven’t read any of these yet! I’m just on short stories and sort of compact literary stuff. But words that breathe I mean.

    I think an author has to flirt with a reader all the way through. But 1000 pages! I think I would bore myself! I agree with Averil, I think it is almost embarrassing to expect a reader to stay with you so long.

  12. macdougalstreetbaby

    My husband bought me Les Miserables because it was one of his favorite reads. I got through the first 10 or so pages before it became a dust covered fixture on our shelf.

    1. Teri Post author

      Oh Les Mis. My first French teacher said she learned French because she wanted to read Les Mis in French. I remember thinking, How Cool is She! But after 2 years of French, I realized how many years that would be and thought, What stamina!

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