Monday, December 15, 2008

A Plea for Brevity

At the moment I am reading a book for research. It is over 500 (large) pages long. The writing is good in parts, and the topic interesting, but despite this I am worried that I am ever going to finish it.

The problem is that my accommodation has recently weakened so much that the only way I can read now is to either take off my glasses and crane over the book on my desk (which makes my back ache), or else sit back and hold it close to my face (which, since the book is hardback is wearing on my arms).

This makes me less tolerant of what I consider to be waffle - four pages about a man riding a camel just because the man happens to lead a laboratory are four pages too long in opinion.

Enough! I want to tell the author, my arms are aching, please cut to the chase. I really don't need the entire history of camel-keeping in the Nile basin, nor do I wish to know that the scientist in question is wearing the same 'pleasant checkered short-sleeved madras shirt' as he was in the conference two months earlier, which, apparently, is further evidence of 'nonexistent fashion sense of the classic absentminded scientist.' This is not a novel, it is a non-fiction book, and frankly, this sort of detail would be boring and irrelevant in either.

But still the author goes on - endless detail of conversations over lunch and then a minute by minute account of a government press conference and what exactly was said, and how and when. The book seems to grow heavier with each leaden sentence. It's enough to make me long for a Sony reader.

Added later: Er Dr Grump seems to have taken over there. I tried to stop her, but she was too powerful.


Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I'm very much the same. The Internet has spoiled me. I have a shelf full of books on Beckett for example but when doing research the first place I go is the now quite extensive library of articles (and a couple of whole books) I've downloaded over the years. In fact a lot of the time, knowing the stuff is out there, I just use Google. It's amazing what you can find quickly with the right keywords.

Mon Dec 15, 10:14:00 pm  
Blogger Susanna said...

I love Dr. Grump! She needs to take over more often!

Tue Dec 16, 04:20:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

I find most hardback books a bit of a struggle. Whilst there is some sort of old world charm about them (they are the image of what books should be), I prefer the one-hand wonder of the paperback.

Mon Dec 22, 02:25:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, I agree, Jim - such wonderful stuff on the internet and you can zoom in and out at will - very useful for people like us!

Thank you Susangalique - I wish I could write Dr Grump's little pieces at will - but I can't I just have to wait for her to come to to me.

Yes, I have the same ambivalence, Jem - sometimes I hate to have the hardback because it stops me taking a book along with me - a hardback seems too heavy, bulky and also too precious and beautiful to ram into a bag.

Mon Dec 22, 11:38:00 pm  

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