January 29th, 2008

Vanitas desk

Finishing a book

The number of pages in a book sets up certain expectations in the reader. I notice this most frequently when the book ends well before the number of pages runs out. My expectations about plot and argument flow are tied to how many pages I think are left in a book. This means that conclusions may seem unexpectedly hasty when the book finished early, whether by 10 or 50 pages.

Those extra pages in a book may be index; bibliography; afterwards; a sample chapter of the sequel; a sample chapter of an unrelated book; a collection of short stories or essays related to the book; advertisements for other books; forms to fill out to request catalogs from publishers. There are all sorts of reasons for having non-main-sections at the end of a book. I'm more likely to expect them in non-fiction, but not always as much as there is.

And it still usually trips me up. I was expecting there to be more story/plot/argument.