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Whatever Happened to the Delete Key?

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[Originally posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2005]

I’m a big believer in doing justice to a story. If it needs 50 pages, then it should be 50 pages. If it needs 5,000 pages, then go to office supply store and load up on the paper. But having said that, am I the only one who thinks that books seem to be getting longer and longer and longer and longer? Is MS Word causing folks to write more and more and lose economy of language?

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve read books that had the following lengths:
–396 pages
–400 pages
–416 pages
–448 pages
–528 pages
–620 pages
–720 pages

They were good books and aside from a small quibble here and there, I can’t really complain about the page counts. But the overall affect is that I must admit that I’m really hoping the next book I review comes in a small, lightweight envelope, and clocks in at less than 200 pages. At least as readers, we’re getting value for the money, I suppose. But I was thinking about how so many classics are downright flimsy by today’s counts.

Here are some page totals from classic novels (the page counts may vary from which edition you examine, but you get the idea) for comparison:
–The Old Man and the Sea is 128 pages
–Animal Farm is 144 pages
–The Great Gatsby is 198 pages

I know, I know, the Russians blow my point about classic brevity away, burdening the discussion with the heft of 800 pages everytime they sign their name, but still, it just seems like books are getting longer and longer.