Came across The Pleasure (and Popularity) of Really Short Books by Christine Smallwood. If you didn’t know yet, this is the Age of the Essay, the age of concise literature. Short books are becoming more important: ‘They take themselves seriously, much like a very short man.’
So what is it like to read a short book?
“Only once has an idea from a very short book really caught fire — Solnit’s notion of “mansplaining.” Most of them aspire less to cultural diagnosis than to self-help; reading one can be a little like having a talk with an intelligent friend urging you to be your best self.”
Speaking of short reads, I found an essay by Charles Dickens called Night Walks where he chronicles his experience of sleeplessness and subsequent night walks. A writer can turn insomnia into a boon.
“The restlessness of a great city, and the way in which it tumbles and tosses before it can get to sleep, formed one of the first entertainments offered to the contemplation of us houseless people. It lasted about two hours. We lost a great deal of companionship when the late public-houses turned their lamps out, and when the potmen thrust the last brawling drunkards into the street; but stray vehicles and stray people were left us, after that.”
Dickens found the usually night offenders- a stray cab, a drunken man staggering into another one, the odd policeman. His prose is stunning:
“But the river had an awful look, the buildings on the banks were muffled in black shrouds, and the reflected lights seemed to originate deep in the water, as if the spectres of suicides were holding them to show where they went down. The wild moon and clouds were as restless as an evil conscience in a tumbled bed, and the very shadow of the immensity of London seemed to lie oppressively upon the river.”
What are the shortest works you have read and been inspired by?