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inevitableentresol: a Victorian gentleman with the body of a carrot (Default)
[personal profile] inevitableentresol
Why are most modern novels so long, or at least the printed ones? Is it to do with typesetting costs? That's one good thing about ebooks, they can be any length.

As a reader, I definitely prefer novels as opposed to short stories. But as a writer, to go from nothing to a full-length novel in one bound is a bit much.

According to the Wikipedia page about AO3, the archive hosts more very short works than long ones, but readers prefer the longer works. The average very short story received fewer than 150 hits, while novel-length works are more likely to receive around 1,500 hits.

Anyway, this week the books I read were all pretty short.

Carmen by Prosper Mérimée, is from 1845. Here's the link to the free Gutenberg ebook, an excellent translation by Lady Mary Lloyd. It's that translation that most impressed me. The writing was so clear and alive, and the local references so descriptive, especially for a book from so long ago. Carmen is just a fantastic character. Charismatic, amoral and intelligent, she runs rings around everyone else. It's this surprisingly modern depiction of an anti-heroine that lifts the story.

The first part of the story is rather dull, setting up how the narrator came to hear the tale of a bandit, and the last one is just writer's notes, but the three brief chapters inbetween are thrilling, about smuggling and Romani life in the Spanish hills. (8/10)

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is also a shortish book, this time from 1922. (Link to the free Guterburg ebook). It's about the spiritual journey of the main character, Siddhartha, who not only shares a name with Buddha, but also meets him as a young man.

My first impression of the book was that it was unexpectedly homoerotic. The main relationship Siddhartha has is with his male best friend, Govinda, and we are both told of Govinda's love, and shown it as he follows the main character round like a puppy. Govinda drops out of the story for a while, but by the end Siddharta meets him again, providing the book's final, and almost shockingly sensual scene. However, all the sex in the book (and there's a lot of it) is firmly hetrosexual. It was even done quite well, which was a pleasant surprise.

Siddhartha is allowed to start off as a callow, rather stupid young man, and then grow up a little. That was the book's big plus point for me. He never really matures entirely, but he's definitely better at the end of the book than at the start, when he could be the encyclopedia illustration of an entitled, moping youth. I was never convinced of his conclusions, but he definitely worked hard for them. (7/10)

Currently reading: Irish Fairy Tales by James Stephens - the prose is just great.
Also reading Marked by PC & Kristin Cast. A teen vampire novel, because I've never read one yet. Unfortunately, this one has some really dodgy ethics involving consent. Surprise surprise, I suppose. I'm hoping the protagonist will have some kind of character arc where she realises her mistake, but I'm not holding my breath.

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