The Challenge of Length

My best friend K and I are doing a “buddy read” of Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, which turned out to be just a solo read for me since she backed out. And yes, we wanted to readit because we know that the movie’s coming out next month. Before seeing the movie trailer, I’ve never heard of this book and didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I agreed to read it with my friend.

What’s the big deal about this book? Not much, except that it’s 768 pages long. Readers of fantasy authors such as G.R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss are possibly laughing at me right now, mocking my cowardice at tackling a book that’s not even a thousand pages long. And hey, I’m all right with being mocked; it’s only a book, why does it matter if it’s 300 or 500 or 1,000 pages?

I think it all boils down to one thing: the anxiety that we are going to put all of our time and effort into this thing — be it a book or long anime series or tv show — only to find out that it sucks. That we wasted our most precious resource, time, only to get minimal return on our investment.

So, why even start at all? There are plenty of other things that won’t demand a lot of time, things that can be watched and read in a matter of hours; go through them and move on. As tempting as that sounds, I feel that there’s still a space in my life for these big books and hundreds-long anime series and why I don’t think I’ll ever give them up.

(1) Some stories are just too epic. And by “epic,” I am making a reference to the Homerian stories of a cast of hundreds, spanning periods of years and decades, not the colloquial/internet usage of the word. Like, you know, my favorite anime, One Piece. There’s no way you can tell the story of Luffy and his crew in fifty episodes. No way. I would actually have been disappointed if they decided to stop at 300 episodes or thereabouts. The world is just so complex, with so many moving parts, that it does take a long time to get to everything. Are some parts mere filler and don’t really bring anything to the story? Sure, but unless we get to the ending and know that it was fluff can we be totally sure. Who’s to say that the author isn’t using filler as a future plot twist?

(2) Let’s also be real: I’m sure that longer series are good (and profitable) business decisions for certain authors/creators. Do you think George R.R. Martin continues to extend The Song of Ice and Fire series for nearly two decades merely to taunt his readers? <s>Yes.</s> I’m sure his publishers were thrilled that the books took on new life with the tv show; so what incentive does the author and the publisher have for ending the book series now that more people are getting into it? And I’m fairly sure that if J.K. Rowling didn’t say that the Harry Potter books were going to correspond to his school year, we would still be looking forward to more HP books right now.

(3) I also think that for the author and certain readers, there’s a certain cachet into claiming that you’ve written or read such a long work. If most people are afraid to tackle it, don’t you then get some credit for wanting to do something unusual? I confess, for certain books, this is part of the reason why they’re on my to-read list. Sure, I’m curious about Murakami’s 1Q84 (despite it being a multi-volume monster). He’s not my favorite author, by any means, but other people have been able to read that novel, what’s wrong with me if I can’t?

What are you feelings about longer books and series? Are you a fan, or would you rather spend your leisure hours on works that take less time to consume? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Anime and Reading Goals for 2014

Hello and Happy 2014! It’s just a bit into the first week of the new year and it’s taken me that long to finalize what I want to accomplish for this blog and how I want to direct my anime-watching and book-reading activities. Of course this could all fall apart tomorrow, but when I write something down, I’m actually more inclined to stick to it than not.

BLOGGING – I’d like to start posting at least once a week. I know on the sidebar it says that I intend to post on Tuesdays and Thursdays but with that disclaimer, I may as well have promised you the moon. At the very least, I’d like to publish at least 50 new posts by the end of December, even if that means I’ll post more often in one month than another — which really isn’t any different from the way that I’ve doing things in this blog now.

ANIME – Make it so to watch something regularly, even if it’s an older series, movie, or something that only you’ll care about. Between DVDs and Hulu, there’s a lot of anime out there that have been on my to-watch list for years, and really, there’s no excuse anymore not to see them.

One thing that I’ve been wanting to do forĀ years and which is actually happening is my rewatch of Rahxephon. Yes, the series that started my descent into the insanity that’s anime fandom. January is Rahxephon Month here at Tokyo Jupiter so expect a few random posts about it in the upcoming days.

By December, I’d really like to completely finish 30 anime series. I realize that a 13-episode series doesn’t require the same time/energy investment as a 52-episode series, but in my world, a win’s a win. I’d like to mix up the types of shows too, like finally going through the Noitamina series that I didn’t see to watching some of that biking anime all the kids are talking about on twitter. And you know, making more of a dent on One Piece, which I will probably be watching till I’m forty. Or older.

READING – I set a goal of 75 books on Goodreads, but I’d like 50 or more of those to be actual novels this year. Last year, I was able to read 43 novels and I think I can top that in 2014. I don’t think I’m going to stop reading young adult fiction altogether, but I’d really like to go back into reading more adult novels and nonfiction, especially science-based nonfiction.

I’m still working on reading (1) one book from the Western literature canon per month; (2) one book written by a non-American or British author per month; (3) one book on faith or spirituality every other month. What can I say? I like making little challenges for myself.

Did you set up any personal challenges for yourself in terms of blogging or your media consumption? Is there anything you’d want to suggest for me to try to watch/read for this year? Let me know in the comments!