Since read­ing one of the longest nov­els I have shied away from other lengthy tomes despite thor­oughly enjoy­ing my 1000-page adven­ture. When con­sid­er­ing this choice, I frame my deci­sion as defend­ing against a type of lit­er­ary post-purchase ratio­nal­i­sa­tion: after invest­ing such an enor­mous amount of time in read­ing a book, will I be able to objec­tively con­sider both its mer­its and imper­fec­tions? After 900 pages, are the quotes I’m high­light­ing really as pro­found as I think? I’m doubtful.

Appar­ently I’m not alone in this, as Mark O’Connell makes clear in a light-hearted essay ask­ing how much of the enjoy­ment we get from read­ing long nov­els can be attrib­uted to a lit­er­ary Stock­holm syndrome?

You fin­ish the last page of a book like Gravity’s Rain­bow and—even if you’ve spent much of it in a state of bewil­der­ment or frus­tra­tion or irritation—you think to your­self, “that was mon­u­men­tal.” But it strikes me that this sense of mon­u­men­tal­ity, this grat­i­fied speech­less­ness that we tend to feel at such moments of clo­sure and vale­dic­tion, has at least as much to do with our own sense of achieve­ment in hav­ing read the thing as it does with a sense of the author’s achieve­ment in hav­ing writ­ten it. When you read the kind of novel that promises to increase the strength of your upper-body as much as the height of your brow […] there’s an awe about the scale of the work which, rightly, informs your response to it but which, more prob­lem­at­i­cally, is often dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate from an awe at the fact of your own sur­mount­ing of it. […]

And there is, con­nected with this phe­nom­e­non, what I think of as Long Novel Stock­holm syn­drome.

via The Browser