Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

400+ Page Book City: The Place Where Old Schoolers and Long-Form Journalists Go to Die

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Twitter. And 400+ page books. These are two diametrically opposed phenomena. The latter object of our pop-culture desires, I don’t mess with. Any book that clocks in over 400 pages, I ain’t reading it. Four hundred is my cap. I wouldn’t read any book that long, or longer, if you tied me down and forced it on me. Life is short, and so should be the length of the books I read.

Here’s my rationale: Between working (most Canadian writers not named Atwood need to have other jobs to pay the bills), hanging out with the kids (if you have any), cooking (if Susur Lee is your muse), laundry (a must!) or putzing out in Kensington Market, where do you find the time to read such colossal mounds of paper? Minus the putzing out in Kensington Market part — that’s not a bare necessity of life, at all — where can you find the kind of solitude, stretched out over weeks or months, which is the time necessary to polish off but one tome?

Why commit yourself to one gigantic piece of paperdom when you can devour a whack of tiny literary nuggets in an equal amount of time, while stimulating your cerebellum much the same way, if not more? Or forget weeny books. You know how many successive weeks and months of issues of the New Yorker, Esquire, Vibe, The Onion or Village Voice I could polish off in the same time period you attempted to digest a 500-page-dump-truck of a book?

So, what does my 400+ page book manifesto / jihad really mean? It means I ain’t reading no E.L. James, and I don’t care how worthwhile a read its supposed to be. If there’s a Coles Notes or Wiki version of the book, I’ll be fine with that, thank you. Nor would I read something like Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue. But that’s for two good reasons. She’s an imbecile and it’s a long-ass paperback that checks in at 448 pages.

You know those books that have been sitting there on your bookshelf since the early 2000s, waiting to be read by you, and it doesn’t look like that will happen anytime soon? Well, those books will not play a part in my life narrative. This largetomephobia I’ve developed recently got me to thinking about current trends in the YA (young adult) fiction category. I had recurring visions and unwet dreams of Meyers. Stephenie Meyer. I think the biggest success of Meyer’s Twilight series is that she made reading ginormous books cool again. You ever see the size of those babies? Now, these are very unique long-ass vampire romance novels, but they are still long assed nevertheless. And speaking of badonka books, I have a couple of autographed copies of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books on my bookshelf, after having scored tickets to see her in Toronto a few years ago. And they almost take up one whole horizontal rack of one of my bookshelves. And I’m told the hardcover versions make for good miniature dumbbells.

The real crux of the matter here is that my MTV generations’ tiny attention spans, upheld by social media platforms like Twitter (“the Toronto Blue Jays won’t make the playoffs! OMG. WTF. LOL.” End of entry.), has crept you closer to ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) status, if you don’t already have it. I love Twitter, but you barely have any space to type up anything with any real depth. That is unless, you consider OMG, LMAO or LMFAO (“Party Rock Anthem”?) to be of any great intellectual significance.

In our web 2.0 world, reading long bouts of prose on Blogger, Tumblr just doesn’t work, and you don’t have to be a PHP programmer to figure that one out. Reading reams of text online is cumbersome and hard on the eyes, and it’s unpleasant to look at for long periods of time, even without any multi-media applications complimenting it. I still to this day have not read a book on a Kindle, Nook or any of these other e-readers. The point is, Generation Now need reading aids. And shorter documents to read. It’s an inconvenient, uncomfortable truth. When it comes to writing long-arsed copy in general, long-form journalists have been griping about the decreased shelf space found in periodicals these days for years now. They say that news- and current-affairs-publishing outfits increasingly want little tidbits of vacuous info that sheds little light on any subject one chooses to scribe about. And they’re right.

Despite my bluster, the only 400+ page book I’m committed to reading one day is the Holy Bible. It’s a book that’s been steadily outselling Atwood and / or E.L. James (since creation!), which is not easy to do, and is often cited as the best-selling book of all time. All this without having any schmancy design elements, nor celebrity endorsement blurbs on its back cover or inside flaps! Imagine that.


Dalton Higgins is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist, and radio and TV broadcaster who blogs and therefore is. Author of the forthcoming Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake (ECW Press), Higgins has written four other books (Fatherhood 4.0, Hip Hop World, Hip Hop, Much Master T) that examine the place where the worlds of technology, diversity, hip hop and hipster culture intersect. His daily Daltoganda, musings, rants, jabs, pontifications and fire-and-brimstone blather can be accessed from his digital pulpit on twitter: @daltonhiggins5

Click here to read Dalton's archived articles on Open Book: Toronto.

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