Words, being silly little units of language reflecting emotional and synaptic activities, are subject to frequent bursts of growth which are known to frustrate the unadventurous reader, possibly causing a regrettable series of eructations. The ambitious novel containing many words is greeted with suspicion, as if all minds are expected to conform to some craven concision. The slim novel may likewise be received by those eagerly wishing to plant plaints, but these impatient toe-tappers are often considering the words-per-ounce (and unspoken words-per-dollar) text stat introduced by the seemingly unstoppable commercial forces of Amazon. But if the novel is any good, it will invite a return visit, irrespective of length. So why perform a counting exercise? It’s not as if you’re likely to count the number of times you make love to your sweetheart — a taboo recently investigated by Kevin Sampsell in his memoir, A Common Pornography. But you will count the number of books you’ve read in the last year or the number of pages you have left. If passion (or bodily fluids) are exchanged through such bookkeeping exercises, then is this not equally crass? A novelist has likely made love or masturbated during the creative process, likely relieving the remarkable tensions that accumulate. Some readers may very well be lucky to engage in carnal relations with the author as he eats poorly and catches a few winks in sketchy hotels during the course of a book tour. But think about this. If you cannot sleep with the novelist, you have a book in your hands that, if it is good, will elicit a similar sensation. And while you may expire after fifteen minutes in the boudoir, with a book, you may very well keep the blood pumping and the balls bouncing for several weeks. And nobody has to know. Given the established covenant between novelist and reader, one does not have to fret about adultery. For all this is perfectly legal. One may be vexed by stains, either of a literal or metaphorical nature. But then I’m the one emitting the gushing comparative point. More chaste-minded readers may consider the novel a fantasy, an escape, or an edification — and such pursuits may not necessarily drift towards the explosive rumination that I am imputing. Does one parallel lead to more dutiful marking of notches on the belt? Perhaps. But it all seems a needless counting exercise that defeats the purpose of reading.
© 2010, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.