I am currently reading a famous English novel spread over 1000 pages in excruciatingly small print. I have finished reading about 300 pages over the last 4 months. The novel is not interesting enough to boost my speed, but I have been continuing nevertheless. With normal 12 point font, the book would have easily run into 1500 pages. The 8-point font is, perhaps, a deception to catch unsuspecting readers like me. The problem is that once you start reading a famous novel, you cannot leave it mid-way. First, the book must be worth reading, because millions liked it. You don't want to appear to yourself less intelligent than such a huge number. Second, once you have invested some time reading a book, you want to justify the investment. You invest more time in the hope that the writer will have mercy on you and at some point, switch to something that can grip your interest. In that sense, reading such books is like investing in share markets. In the face of losses, you invest more money in the hope that your initial investment can be recouped.
I wonder how people could write such huge novels. Wherefrom did they get so much energy and so many ideas? There may not have been internet, television and other such addictive forms of entertainment when they were writing, but there must have been activities like fishing, gardening, horse-riding, etc. to keep them away from writing at least for some time. Or was it the case that these stubborn writers wanted to use every second of their waking time to pass on their pearls of wisdom to succeeding generations which ran the risk of not finding other writers of their calibre?
With many writers of classics, I have observed a very elaborate effort to give the background and the context and a rather lazy attempt to lay out the characters. It is like laying table for lunch or dinner. Table cloth, plates, glasses, forks, bowls, knives - everything is lovingly and lazily laid before the meals are actually served. I am sure, many have the required patience, but I am one of those who would not mind some sloppiness in preparation if the food is good and can be quickly served.