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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007 11:15 am
Kill your darlings so that others might live
Posted by: Keir Graff

Dan Rhodes calls Thomas Pynchon a mass murderer. Well, he may as well have.  From The Guardian (“Dan Rhodes’s top 10 short books“):

“I was reading a new novel the other day when it struck me that the author might as well be a murderer. It wasn’t a bad novel, it was just too long. Passages that could and should have been lopped out had been left in, but I felt I had to plough through them in case they had any bearing on the story. It might have been a really good read if the author had had the gumption, or the balls, to shave off a hundred pages. And here’s where the murder comes in. Say it takes the average reader an extra two hours (two hours they will never get back) to read all the filler. And what if the book does well and finds 250,000 readers? By my calculations this author will have wasted a total of 57 waking years – the equivalent of a long human life. And what if this monster continues to publish such books? Surely that would make them a serial killer? 

I don’t mind a long book if the going’s worth it, but there are definitely too many authors who equate the physical weight of their books with intellectual gravity. And I do subscribe to the theory that it takes more time to write less, which is why I am sometimes so longwinded in this blog.

(Alas, I don’t have time to chase down the provenance of that great quote from Mark Twain/Samuel Johnson/Blaise Pascal about not having enough time to write a shorter letter. Or the accurate version of William Faulkner quote about killing your babies/darlings.)

I also like movies that are 100 minutes or less, pop songs that are 3 minutes or less (on albums of fewer than 12 songs) — and very short walks in the rain.



2 Responses to “Kill your darlings so that others might live”
  1. karen aldrich Says:

    Is there anyone who could give me the source of the “killing your babies/darlings” quote by Faulkner- I can only find the same citation without it’s original source – everywhere on the internet –

  2. Keir Says:

    Boy, that’s a toughie, Karen. I suspended my search after an hour or so–didn’t have time to continue. Perhaps a crackerjack reference librarian can wade in and help us?

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