May 22, 2015 On the Shelf Size Matters, and Other News By Dan Piepenbring A large, presumably very trendy book from the fourteenth century. Today in “Let’s Pretend There’s a Trend”: Are long novels enjoying a day in the sun? There are, after all, many of them being published this year. “People seem to be seeking wholly immersive experiences,” says one publicist. “They’re binge-watching, they’re cooking from scratch, going on ecotours. And there’s no more immersive experience than reading a good long book.” (Publicists for cocaine, LSD, and MDMA could not be reached for comment.) Fantasy authors, on the other hand, are advised to stop writing so many long novels. “A deluge of multi-volume epics has been published over recent years, each one in turn hailed as the next Game of Thrones, only to disappear within a few months as disappointed readers found reality didn’t match the hype … Most were by debut novelists, often interesting writers with some good short stories under their belt, pushed far beyond their technical abilities by an industry hungry for instant commercial success.” But if there are too many big books, there are also too many big literary festivals—in fact, the festivals are getting too big for their books, even for the big books. “What is the point of book festivals? To see your favorite authors on stage, hear them read from their books and in conversation? Or meet them, queue up to get their signatures in your first editions, and ask them questions?” While we’re at it, our data sets are growing too fast, too; this is your periodic reminder that the digital humanities are divisive and arguably counterproductive. The scholars who built Google Ngram “gave a presentation about how the specific year in which a book is set started getting mentioned much more frequently after the French Revolution, and hypothesized that this had something to do with a new sense of time in the modern nation-state. In fact, as a senior professor attending the presentation immediately pointed out, these were just the years when copyrights, including dates of publication, started appearing in the fronts of books.” There is, amid this outsize circus of excess, one man who isn’t big enough: the man who shot the artist Chris Burden with a .22-caliber rifle back in 1971. In the name of the humanities, this fellow was “willing to accept the risk that if he missed his target by inches, art could morph into homicide.” He’s an accountant now.