The New Atlantis – The Half-Bound World – John Derbyshire

The New Atlantis – The Half-Bound World – John Derbyshire. Derbyshire reviews Neal Stephenson’s excellent book, The Baroque Cycle

In his invaluable Reader’s Manifesto, literary critic B. R. Myers, skewering current literary fads, offers a spoof list of rules for serious writers. Rule II is:

Sprawl. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but contemporary reviewers regard a short book as “a slender achievement.” So when in doubt, leave it in.

I naturally had Myers’s mock precept in mind when approaching Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle—three damned, thick, square books weighing in at a total of over 2,600 pages. My better self then reflected that some fine novels, including some indisputably great ones, are of comparable size; that the Victorian “three-deckers” and serialized novels, some of which likewise attained immortality, did not stint on wordage; and there are some stories that can only be told at length. Allowing these charitable thoughts to prevail, I turned to the first page of the Cycle with an open mind, ready to be entertained and instructed. I was not disappointed. This is a fine story-telling achievement.


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