Saturday, January 21, 2017

Attention Span

I don't seem to have the attention span to read anything longer than a novella these days. I have some Forgotten Books posts about novels already scheduled, but other than that there may be a lot of posts about anthologies, collections, and pulp "novels" that are actually closer to novellas. I'd already just about given up on reading anything longer than 400 pages, although I'd manage one now and then. Now even a book that's 60-70,000 words seems like too much to tackle. I read on one for a couple of days and get burned out. I've been through stretches like this before, don't know what causes them or how to break out of one, but this time it seems to be settled in for good. At least I'm still reading and I have plenty of shorter stuff on hand. Does this happen to anybody else?

10 comments:

Kurt Reichenbaugh said...

Yes. It happens to me all the time. I've read some massive novels like War and Peace and Our Mutual Friend, and while I find them worth it and rewarding I can't imagine starting something like that. Is it a symptom of our times?

Bill Crider said...

Happens to me every now and then.

Richard Krauss said...

I find audio books a great method for works of massive wordage. Great while you're out for a walk or pulling weeds. The local library has a great selection.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I get so as the only thing I can stomache are short stories, which is great for a while as I deplenish the stacks of short story collections I seem to acquire by osmosis or something.
Eventually I get to where I think I ought to read something longer, but I never go back to it until I find a novel I'm keen to read that happens to be a long one. If I dig into that novel and it's good, the spell is broken and I'm back to reading longer stuff again.

One of the things getting in the way of my reading novels lately are all those hardboiled gems Altus keeps putting out in their Dime Detective Library. I find myself wondering why I'd want to read anything else.

John Hocking

James Reasoner said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one it happens to.

Keith West said...

You're not alone. Up until a couple of years ago, I almost always finished every book i started. Now, I seem to have developed some type of reading ADD. I'll pick up a book, start it, and even if I'm enjoying it, will get distracted by something else and not get back to the original book. I set a goal this year that I was going to try to finish all the books sitting around that were unfinished. I figured I could finish them in a month to six weeks. Hasn't happened. I'm not sure why, but the trend seems to be getting worse rather than better.

Walker Martin said...

Part of the problem is that we are all older and veteran readers by now. It's easy to get jaded and stop reading if it's a plot that we have read before, etc. But I've found that if the book is interesting and well written then I can still read something long but it has to be outstanding.

For instance I've been reading Terry Johnston's THE PLAINSMEN series. There are 16 novels in the series all based on historical events that happened in the Indian Wars of 1860-1890. They are all long at around 400 pages but I just finished book 5 about the Modoc Wars in 1872-1873. The first novel grabbed my attention, SIOUX DAWN, which is about the Fetterman Massacre where 81 troopers were killed in an ambush. The second most killed by indians next to Custer's last stand.

I break up each long novel with a shorter original western of 110 to 160 pages, published by Gold Medal, Ace, etc.

Peter Brandvold said...

I can't read long novels anymore, either. At least, rarely. I don't think it's me so much as that long novels these days are padded. Publishers want 100k-plus word novels because they can sell them for more money, but most writers don't know how to write them. I hardly ever read anything over 70k words anymore, and most right around 50k, which many ebook originals are.

Walker Martin said...

Another reason you may be avoiding long novels is the simple fact that you have a heavy writing schedule which makes it difficult to spend the necessary time paying attention to the longer novels. Since you are writing a million words a year with several books then you probably should continue reading the shorter fiction like the pulps published. Long novels will just take too much of your valuable writing time.

James Reasoner said...

Time is definitely a factor, Walker. But even when I have a chance to read, a lot of times I don't. I'm starting to think it's just more of a general burn-out, because I find my attention drifting quite a bit when I'm watching a TV show or movie, too. Don't know what the solution is. A week off in the woods with no technology and a pile of books, maybe.