Monday, February 11, 2013

infinite text

Last one on this subject, honest, but just to expand on the unsatisfactoriness of page count as a measure of novel length, here's a few lists of the longest novels in the English language. Now this is necessarily a subjective sort of thing - for instance, do multi-book linked series of novels count? Wikipedia clearly thinks so, as its list has Marcel Proust at the top of it. Interestingly the lists all have different numbers of items (ten, sixteen and nineteen respectively) but the general rule seems to have been to keep going until you hit Infinite Jest, then stop, since it appears as the last item on all of them.

Clearly word count is the most sensible measuring criterion for book length, and since Infinite Jest clocks in at just under half a million, I'd say the "average" novel is probably about 100,000 words. I arrive at this number by the following highly scientific method: divide 1079 by 5, which gives you 216; add 20% to compensate for the absurdly small font, infrequent chapter breaks and relative lack of dialogue in Infinite Jest, and that gives you about 260 pages, which probably isn't far off a representative average-sized novel. QED.

Ideally there ought to be some sort of law that requires publishers to include this information somewhere, probably in with all the ISBN stuff and authorial disclaimers at the front. They generally make a point of noting which ruddy typeface it's in, for goodness' sake, so let's throw in a piece of actual useful data as well.

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