A friend recently posted on Facebook that she was 100-odd pages into Infinite Jest and running out of steam. Lots of people might have (and, in fact, have) given up in situations like that, but she was determined to finish.
Why do long books sometimes get such a hold on their readers? The Millions has a great piece up about the “Stockholm syndrome” theory of the long novel:
Perhaps I’m stretching the bonds of credulity by implicitly comparing William Gaddis to a FARC guerilla commander, but I’m convinced there’s something that happens when we get into a captive situation with a long and difficult book that is roughly analogous to the Stockholm syndrome scenario. For a start, the book’s very length lays out (for a certain kind of reader, at least) its own special form of imperative—part challenge, part command. The thousand-pager is something you measure yourself against, something you psyche yourself up for and tell yourself you’re going to endure and/or conquer. And this does, I think, amount to a kind of captivity: once you’ve got to Everest base camp, you really don’t want to pack up your stuff and turn back.
For those finding a looooong novel just a little too long, however, here’s a way to take a break. The site Six Word Story Every Day offers (surprise!) a really, really short piece each day, complete with eye-catching artwork. One of my favorites: