Love You Long Time: On Very Long Books

I was supposed to finish A Little Life, oh, three weeks ago? It’s a book club pick (er, my book club pick). But for so many reasons—summertime, small children, email and the internet’s siren song—I’m treading water at only a third of the way through (sorry, fellow book-clubbers, but it’s true).
Among the reasons I’ve been hanging out in the 300s is not a flagging interest. Not at all. I am so curious about these characters. And I am so, so curious to find out if the pages to come will bring forth implicitly promised revelations.
But curiosity does not necessarily compel action.
My attraction to the very long book has always been strong. When I was much, much younger, it was about the bragging rights (humble though they may be) of the big-book burden and (probably?) pride in completion. What gives me so much pleasure today is not just the world-inhabiting possibilities of the very long book, but its promise of stability.
Long books offer immersive escape, sure, but what I like about them is their there-ness. A very long book is big and bulky, and it follows me around—from the bedroom to the coffee table…to Florida—but it doesn’t really nag me (or at least not loudly) for attention.
Also, as long as a very long book has been started and not finished, its world is still spinning, its characters are still just about to do or say anything at all.
The only real downside to taking all the time in the world to finish a very long book is the fact that there are so many very long books left to be read (and the certain knowledge, thanks, Tim Urban, that I will never, ever be able to read them all). Well, that and the book club.