Chapters

I’m reading Sandman Slim because I read an excerpt from the third book in the series and thought it sounded interesting, so I’m reading this book. I’m liking it so far, though it somehow feels paced too quickly and not quickly enough. I don’t quite know how to explain it.

I think one of the pacing issues is that it doesn’t have chapters. Which, on the one hand, I think is working really well, since it’s a book that is about a man who has to make a huge leap into a new world that doesn’t stop for him, so your experience reading kind of mirror’s his experience.

But then when do you stop to go to the bathroom or stop for the evening? I tried to stop between scenes but it made me realize that there’s a way in which I just can’t quite settle into the rhythm of the book. Which works fine for this book, but I’m glad in general that books have chapters.

I also have The Sisters Brothers to read which I am excited about based solely on the cover. You can talk yourself into believing that a bad cover doesn’t hurt a book, but when you see a cover that good, it makes you wonder.

And The Night Circus which I am a tad nervous about.

Anyway, chapters. I wonder about even writing a book without chapters. How do you organize it in your own mind? That’s the part I’m really curious about. Not that the Sue Allen project quite has proper chapters yet, but it seems to be organizing itself into chapterlike chunks. On the other hand, I’ve read a lot of books lately with really short chapters. It makes me wonder just what we think a chapter is, other than the moment when it’s safe to move from the couch to the toilet.

5 thoughts on “Chapters

  1. I read the first Sandman Slim novel on an iPod and it took me a while to realize that there weren’t any chapters, since my experience was divided into tiny little screens of text. On one level, I think it’s an interesting tweak at the genre convention of chapters to divide up a story (because my suspicion is that chapters came from the old serial publication practices). On the other, as a reader, it’s a little jarring. But then… I don’t know. It’s got small sections, like chapters do, little scene breaks. Is my uneasiness just because I’m not used to it? This is too much to ponder on one cup of coffee.

  2. I’m curious as to why you are nervous about The Night Circus. Because I am too. ;-) it’s one of the things I’m saving for a couple weeks while my mind goes over that bridge. Im hoping it’s wonderful but am afraid it could be awful.

    As for chapters, I’ve stopped noticing them as much thanks to the Kindle. The only place they stand out are the GRRM books or others like that where each chapter is a shift in POV.

  3. That’s really my fear, too. The praise for it is of a sort that just isn’t clear if everyone likes it because it’s genuinely good or if they like it because there’s a lot of hype. I just don’t want another MISS PEREGRINE’S…

  4. I actually spent an hour on Goodreads this morning (at like 2:45…couldn’t sleep) going through all the reviews of Night Circus. And I have to be honest. The gushing reviews are all pretty much the same. “ZOMG! Best book ever! Couldn’t put it down! want to live in that world! So Romantic!”

    On the other hand the few 2- and 3- star reviews seemed to be more earnest, analytical and well-composed. And they all reiterated the same points:

    1. The author is great with description, but falls down on character development.

    2. The jacket blurb is basically bullshit. The book isn’t the action-packed duel that the copy presents; rather it is a languid, atmospheric thing that moves at glacial speed.

    3. The third person present tense format creates distance between reader and subject that prevents you from fully engaging in the characters.

    4. The skipping around in the timeline, coupled with multiple ancillary characters, is confusing and requires constant removal from the narrative as you jump back and forth to double-check things.

    So, I’m thinking that it’s more likely another Miss Peregrines, but one I might still read on a day when I just want to be swept along in an atmospheric thing. At least I feel like going into it I’ll be more aware of the problems. Granted, every book will have problems. But I just get so pissed when the problems are ignored in favour of hype.

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