My favorite sports guy, Bill Simmons, & his crew of pop culture / sports weirdos have a new podcast on The Ringer Network called THE HOTTEST TAKE, where they throw out some absurd statement, from “we need to reorder the alphabet” to “indoor volleyball should replace baseball in America’s Big Three of Sports.” They’re like 7 minutes long; they usually have moments that border on annoying / off-putting, but I think that is part of the point. I like that even. So, I got to thinking, why should the sportiest nerds in LA get to have all the fun? Here I’ll do my version, my done got hot takes that have been swirling in this blurry brain of mine for quite some time:
Novels are the worst “book” form of the literary genres.
This is not my most popular opinion, mostly reserved for literary company of the three-drinks-in variety, but somebody has gotta say it. It might sound anti-intellectual, but hear me out: they are too long, simply, they tell you when & where to start & end, they offer little good that movies do not. With the amount of information, entertainment, & let’s face it, pressure, in our limited time here on Earth, ain’t nobody got time for a twenty-two page description of an orchid or a character’s meandering thoughts on a meandering jaunt into the meandering countryside. I need the quick hit of a poem, the angled bite of an essay, the instructive narrative of a short (keyword!) story. I told my friend BM the other day that I do not like books anymore, as much as I read them, so maybe that is really my done got hot take--no more books, please. They just happen to be the most accepted & convenient delivery system of what I do like: words. Quality over quantity, a protester yells from the back. This isn’t some millennial bullshit either about shortened attention span or the disjunction between the novel form & electronic receptacles. No, for me, it is about urgency, captured in the verve of storytelling, the importance of language as a shared commodity, & the spark of joy in consuming a piece of artwork. There’s no orality in the novel these days, unless it is some contrived artifice. There is no socializing among the big-ass books; I can’t say, “here read this while I go to the bathroom” or even, “let’s discuss it next week” (again, too many words!). There can be no let-me-learn-about-this-life-or-that-leaf in between my dentist appointment & smoothies with my cousin, a full piece stuck into the puzzle of the self, if the literary mechanism is a gargantuan tomb.. If I had my way, it would be all loose leaf pieces of paper & xeroxed essays & stories told by the lady on the bus. Luckily for the methodical money-makers of the literary world, I don’t often get my way, which of course is a good thing.
P.S. I’m obviously pushing aside those works that push the length typicalities of their forms--the long poem, the novella, etc. I like those, just as I like ridiculously long novels like Infinite Jest, which gain all their “I’m a novel” lost-mojo from the absurdity & risk of the work itself.
P.P.S. I’m (83%) joking.