Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Size isn't Everything, Y'Know!

Ian McEwan answers critics who suggest that On Chesil Beach isn't long enough to win the Booker. At the New Yorker Festival:
He brushed off discussion in the British press on whether On Chesil Beach was a novel or a novella and questions over whether it should have been entered for the Man Booker prize. "That's their problem, not mine," he said.

The same article in the Australian also points out that Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist (which I'm reading at the moment) is only 45,000 words long. Thought I was zipping through it rather fast.


As if to answer the question, just came across this passage in Mohsin Hamid's book:
"It's done," she said solemnly. I waited for her to say more, and when she did not, I asked, "'It' being?" "My manuscript," she said "I'm sending it to an agent tomorrow." I took it respectfully in both hands, resting it flat across my upturned palms. "Congratulations," I said, and then noticing it was rather light, added "Is that all of it?" She nodded. "It's more a novella than a novel," she said. "It leaves space for your thoughts to echo."


Gette said...

And 45,000 is 5,000 words short of winning Nanowrimo.

Chet said...

The original draft was probably longer than 50,000 words before being edited for publication.

Dean said...

Nice title... ever see the movie Soul Plane?

Anonymous said...

Tell that to the people who pay per word.

animah said...

I think it evens out. Darkmans is over 800 pages.

bibliobibuli said...

you're so right, animah! am hovering on the brink of "darkmans" wondering whether i can commit myself to such a marathon ... might just try to read first few chapters to get a taste before booker is announced on 16th

jawakistani said...

"It leaves space for your thoughts to echo..."

I dont like too much space. I like it well defined. Hence the reason why I dont like uncertain endings like for instance Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart. It gave me a heartache after I finished reading it.

saras said...

"It leaves space for your thoughts to echo..." On the contrary, it's wonderful, Jawakistani. I like space for it lets you explore possibilities, to wonder and wander down different alleys. Well-defined sometimes makes some prison walls. Don't know if I'm making sense.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

"It leaves space for your thoughts to echo..."

Interesting that 3 or 4 of us picked out the same part of this post. I like the idea that a writer leaves space for us to think. Perhaps the echo sounds different to each of us as it rattles around in our heads. After all, we're in different places in life and in our life cycles.

KayKay said...

"Leaves Space For Your Thoughts To Echo". Is that Literary Speak for "That's all I can write. I'm done."
It's like Authors who justify ambiguous (read:piss-poor) endings as avenues to let the readers form their own conclusions rather than just come clean and admit they didn't know how to end the fucking thing.
Novella or novel, they both work once the authors know when to stop.
Just echoing my thoughts here, you dig?

bibliobibuli said...

i reckon all good fiction should "leave room for your thoughts to echo", even a short story.

now that doesn't mean, kakay,jawakistani that the ending should be crap - although i don't think we should always need everything sewn up!

what is does mean is that the reader is also bringing possibility to the text and making meanings.

you can feel the effects of fiction that works in this way when you find yourself wondering about it long after you've closed the book. some times for a lifetime.

but whether a novella does this better than a novel ... actually i'd say not necessarily. must say though that in the case of "on chesil beach" i could feel that reverberating long after i'd put the book down.

Anonymous said...

Whether you like it or hate itm in the end, tomorrow is another day. You should be glad that a book can still make you feel things, that's the holy grail for any writer I think, to have the reader so identify with the book and it's characters to actually feel something for them. If you get a heartache when the book ends, it must mean that you really liked the book, musn't it ? :)