Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
A thousand pages to describe Scarlett’s three husbands and her struggles during the war.
Margaret Mitchell at the Gone With The Wind movie premiere party in Atlanta. © Bettmann/CORBIS, 1939
Boredom caused 25-year-old Margaret Mitchell to write 63 of the chapters. Mitchell was a journalist for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine. spending 10 years of her life working on the book, Mitchell didn’t really have much intention of publishing it. When a “friend” heard that she was considering writing a book (though in fact, it had been written), she said something to the effect of, “Imagine, you writing a book!” Annoyed, Mitchell took her massive manuscript to a Macmillan editor the next day. She later regretted the act and sent the editor a telegram saying, “Have changed my mind. Send manuscript back.”
Ralph Thompson, a book reviewer for The New York Times, was quite unimpressed with the book at first, saying “I happen to feel that the book would have been infinitely better had it been edited down to, say, 500 pages-”
At the end, Thompson admitted, “Any kind of first novel of over 1,000 pages is an achievement and for the research that was involved, and for the writing Itself, the author of Gone With the Wind deserves due recognition.”
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
After reading 200 pages of Infinite Jest, Michael Pietsch, Wallace’s editor at Little, Brown,told Wallace’s agent, “I want to do this book more than I want to breathe.”
Pietsch responded to the original 1,600-page manuscript of Infinite Jest with a letter to Wallace saying, “It’s exactly the challenge and adventure I came to book publishing to find.” He also suggested that Wallace make extensive cuts to the book, adding, “I’m still hoping there are ways to make the novel much shorter, not because any one piece of it isn’t wonderful but because the longer it is the more people will find excuses not to read it. On the attached pages I’ve suggested chapters and scenes that maybe can come out without killing the patient.” On Pietsch’s letter, Wallace circled that section and simply put a question mark by it.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
East of Eden, often considered Steinbeck’s most ambitious novel, follows the intricate lives of two families, the Hamiltons, based on Steinbeck’s maternal ancestors, and the Trasks as they settle in California.