What better way to spend summer’s longer days than with a really long book? Since it is summer reading, let’s look at fiction (written in English).
How do you find a really long book? You could peruse the shelves at a library or a book store. Or you could let your fingers do the walking—go online and search. That search brings up interesting choices: whose list do you believe—Wikipedia’s, Amazon’s, Mental Floss’s, ListVerse’s or someone else’s? They share some selections, but not others. How are the book lengths determined—by the number of pages, characters or words? All three are used, but counting the number of words seems to be the most accurate.
The longest novel written in English is The Blah Story (2007-2008), a twenty-three volume work by Nigel Tomm, which contains 11,338,105 words in 17,868 pages. Merriam Webster defines novel as “an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events.” Elements of fiction include character, plot and theme. Broadly defined, The Blah Story includes these elements, but Tomm’s work isn’t something that most of us would choose to read for pleasure. “Overwhelmingly creative, Nigel Tomm demolishes the barrier of words and meaning, giving vitality and expressive strength to the pattern of his most exclusive novel—The Blah Story. It is a new way of conceiving text that frees the imagination, allowing you to personalize each and every word by your own creativity.” This is the description provided by Amazon.com (emphasis added by this writer—nice sales pitch, Amazon!) for the first volume of the novel and, although there are now twenty-three volumes, The Blah Story is considered a single novel. Creative Tomm may be, but do you really want to read even the first volume’s seven hundred twenty eight pages, in which the bulk of the text consists of the word “blah” interspersed with nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs, leaving it up to the reader to substitute words for the “blahs” in order to create logical sentences?
Let’s look at somewhat more traditional long novels and, for this blog, consider only works originally written in English. Very long books written in another language and then translated into English, such as Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (approximately three million words), Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers (no word count given on Amazon’s list) and Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (560,391words), therefore, aren’t on my list but are mentioned here just in case one of these huge books appeals to you.
Marienbad My Love, “the world’s longest ‘open source’ novel” can be downloaded as the original 2008 edition or as a later edition is available in print and for a Kindle. Marienbad My Love by Mark Leach consists of seventeen volumes and 2.5 million words. This book appeared on only one list.
Not quite as long, L. Ron Hubbard’s Mission Earth (1985-1987) has only ten volumes containing 1.2 million words. Sometimes seen as a series of novels, Hubbard intended Mission Earth “to be a single novel, published in ten volumes.”
A Dance to the Music of Time (1951-1975) by Anthony Powell follows Mission Earth with fewer than one million words in twelve volumes. It is “sometimes regarded as a novel sequence” which begs the question: is Dance a single novel, as Hubbard’s Mission Earth claims to be?
Traditional in format and first published in 1794 , Clarissa; or, the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson, is merely 984,870 words in one thick volume.
Poor Fellow My Country (1980) by the Australian author Xavier Herbert is another lengthy work—852,000 words! Slightly less wordy is Women and Men (1987) by Joseph McElroy at 850,000 or 700,000 words (both are estimates). If you want to sample McElroy’s work in a shorter format, Falvey owns his Lookout Cartridge (531 pages, no word count available).
A close contender to Women and Men in number of words is Madison Cooper’s Sironia, Texas (1952) with 840,000 words. Miss MacIntosh, My Darling (1965) by Marguerite Young has either 750,000 or 576,000 words – that’s quite a variation, but I’m not planning on counting the words myself to verify either total!
Varney the Vampire, originally published as a series of “penny dreadfuls” from 1845 to 1847 and then as a book in 1847 has 667,000 words. The author is either James Malcolm Rymer or Thomas Preskett Prest. Varney is still in print although not in Falvey’s collections. (Ed. note: We noticed that Varney is currently being offered free for Kindle devices at this link. Read at your own risk!).
With only some 22,000 fewer words, Atlas Shrugged (1957) by Ayn Rand is almost as long as Varney the Vampire although Atlas Shrugged was first published just over one hundred years later.
Published in 1994, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth has only 593,674 words—a veritable light weight book! David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (2006) comes in at either 543,709 (Wikipedia) or 484,001 (Amazon) words—that’s quite a difference in the word count! Remembrance Rock (1948), written by Carl Sandberg follows with 532,000 words. And James Clavell’s Jai-Jin, not on all lists, is even shorter at 487,700 words—who counted these?
How do these novels compare in size with such well known ones such as War and Peace (1869) written by Leo Tolstoy in Russian and later translated into English? War and Peace contains about 560,000 words; that puts it near the bottom of this list. And where does Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936) rank? At over 400,000 words, it is at the bottom of this list.
If nothing on this list appeals to you, there is always “The New York Times” list of best sellers. Books are divided into categories such as print (hardcover and paperback), e-book, fiction, non-fiction and more. They are ranked by popularity—if you are looking for a super long book, you are on your own.
Today is the 192nd anniversary of the birth of Gregor Johann Mendel, a V.I A. (very important Augustinian) here at Villanova and a great day to visit one of the most beautiful corners of campus, tucked right behind the library!
On the plaza to the right of the east entrance to Mendel Science Center, there stands a seven feet tall, cast bronze statue of Gregor Johann Mendel (1822 – 1884), the Augustinian priest who discovered the laws of heredity by studying peas, and the scientist for whom the Science Center is named. Suitably enough, the statue is surrounded in a blaze of fuchia crepe myrtle each year in time for the great geneticist’s birthday. The sculptor, James Peniston, signed and dated his work on the lower back right (as one faces the same way as does Mendel).
Peniston, who lives and works in Philadelphia, tells how he came to create the statue in 1998, “There’s one [of my sculptures] at Villanova University, a sculpture of Gregor Mendel that the monks commissioned to stand in front of their science center. They came to the foundry where I worked – Laran Bronze in Chester – and asked if anyone could sculpt a 7-foot figure in two months. And the foundry owners asked me whether I could, and I said, of course I can. Then I had to figure out how to do it!”
“One of the challenges of the Mendel was drapery robes. For reference, I studied some of the sculptures down along the Schuylkill River, along Kelly Drive. They have some really fine robes and capes.”
Artists have made cast bronze sculptures throughout the history of art, at least since the time of the Ancient Greeks. If you look closely at Villanova’s statue of Gregor Johann Mendel, you can see the marks of the sculptor’s tools which he used to shape the clay model for the statue.
For more on Peniston, click here. And to see Peniston’s explanation for bronze casting see here. For more information about the Mendel statue see here. And for much more for about Mendel go here. And don’t miss tomorrow’s blog for a delicious way to serve those peas once you’ve finished cross-breeding them!
Fast, intense, and no free time to watch any World Cup—you really earn those credits in the summertime! So, summer students, what’s been the highlight of your summer sessions here at Villanova? Dare we make a guess that you’ll say that it’s next week—when sessions finally come to a close?!
Photo of “Jesse” by Molly Quinn, ’15 CLAS
Nadine Gordimer, who passed on July 13 at the age of 90, often said in interviews that had she lived elsewhere on Earth, her writing may not have been as political—or perhaps, in hindsight, as significant. Of course, we shall never know because Gordimer remained a resident of South Africa her entire life for the majority of the twentieth century and for all of its mantle under apartheid, which prevailed from 1948-1991. Like all great writers, she wrote what she knew.
She published her first work at the age of 15, a short story called “Come Again Tomorrow,” which appeared in a Johannesburg magazine. She went on to publish many short works in The New Yorker and to write 15 novels. Her most compelling work reveals a fierce commitment to telling the stories of the people of an oppressed nation, which ultimately earned her the Nobel Prize in literature in 1991, the same year apartheid laws were repealed.
Her work speaks of her surroundings during that time: the other world, beyond the gate, the area from which she was separated “not by land and sea, but by law, custom and prejudice.” In her book of essays on the writer’s life, Writing and Being, she recounts her realization years later that she and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were close neighbors although “there was as much chance of our meeting then as there was of a moon landing. “
“Did we pass one another, sometimes, on Saturday mornings when the white town and the black ghetto all stocked up for the weekend at the same shops? Did I pass him by when I went into the local library to change books, a library he was barred from because he was black?” (1995, Gordimer, p. 120)
Gordimer continued to resist notions that post-1991, without the institutionalized repression, she lost her literary subject. As reported in The New York Times, she said the repeal of apartheid “makes a big difference in my life as a human being but … doesn’t really affect me in terms of my work, because it wasn’t apartheid that made me a writer, and it isn’t the end of apartheid that’s going to stop me.”
Falvey Memorial Library has dozens of her books on our shelves and hundreds more articles and papers about her works and influence. Be sure to click around our Dig Deeper section, curated by literature liaison librarian, Sarah Wingo. This year The Wall Street Journal is calling for South Africans to commemorate Mandela Day, a day celebrated internationally each July 18 in honor of Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of service to humanity, by spending 67 minutes reading a Gordimer short story. Sarah’s links may be a good place to start.
Written by her:
The book for which she was the joint winner of the Man Booker Prize in 1974-The Conservationist
A biography Nadine Gordimer : a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, 1937-1992.
A site where you can legally download copies of it. Be persistent – we believe it’s busy due to heavy traffic since her death: http://bookdir.info/?p=682923
The Novels of Nadine Gordimer: Private Lives/Public Landscapes: A “critique all of her major works in the broader context of South African literature”
The Guardian’s five must-read books by her
“Five Free Short Stories by Nadine Gordimer” Links to a story with an embedded video of her reading one of her stories—contains links to several others that are freely available.
Dig Deeper links selected by Sarah Wingo, team leader- Humanities II, subject librarian for English, literature and theatre. Article by Joanne Quinn, Team Leader for Communication and Service Promotion
The water cooler in office suite 235 is a popular spot with numerous daily visitors. When the University changed its water supplier to Deer Park, that name triggered a memory of a small town in the Appalachian Mountains of western Maryland, a town that my family drove through every weekend from May through October. Could the water in my office cooler come from that Deer Park? Well, the answer is yes and no.
Deer Park, Md., in the later 1800s was a summer resort in Garrett County catering to the rich and famous; President Grover Cleveland and his wife, Frances, spent their honeymoon there in June 1882, and three other American presidents – Garfield, Harrison and Taft – visited the resort. A Maryland Historical Society roadside marker says, “This was one of the most exclusive mountain resorts in the East.” What brought these “nationally prominent people” to rural western Maryland, and what does this have to do with Deer Park water?
The B&O Railroad (Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, now part of CSX) built and operated the Deer Park Hotel and cottages on the hotel grounds. The hotel opened July 4, 1873, and operated until 1911 or 1929 (I’ve found conflicting dates for this). No longer standing, the Deer Park Hotel was razed in 1942.
Affluent people from Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and other locations along the route of the B&O stayed at the hotel and its cottages or built their own summer cottages near the hotel, creating the town of Deer Park. These “cottages,” by our standards, were houses, two to three story structures with many rooms, large porches and even servants’ quarters; some are still standing. What drew people to this area was the summer climate, the fresh mountain air, a welcome change from the hot, humid weather in the cities, and the easy access via the B&O. An advertisement for the hotel says evenings are cool and daytime temperatures rarely go above eighty degrees Fahrenheit. (I can vouch for the truth of this statement – in an unheated cottage a few miles away, I slept under a blanket every summer night.)
The B&O owned a spring, locally called the Boiling Spring, in the vicinity of the Deer Park Hotel. The water bubbled up through white sand, hence the name, Boiling Spring. Originally a small rustic building with heavy wire netting sides protected the spring which was surrounded by acres of virgin timber. This spring, said to be one of the finest natural springs in the United States, had a daily flow of about 150,000 gallons. The railroad bottled Boiling Spring water as Deer Park water and served it in the Deer Park Hotel and in the B&O dining cars, but never sold the water. The Boiling Spring also supplied the water for the hotel’s swimming pool and spa.
In the 1950s a new pagoda-style spring house replaced the original rustic building, and the spring water was treated by a hypo-chlorinator in a new bottling plant, despite the B&O’s claim that the water was “one of the purest waters to be found anywhere.” Water, labeled as Deep Park Spring Drinking Water, was bottled at the spring for service on the railroad’s dining cars into the 1960s.
In 1966 the B&O sold the spring and the surrounding forest to the Boiling Spring Holding Corporation. This company bottled the spring water and sold it in the New York City area. The Boiling Spring Holding Corporation became Deer Park Spring Water, Inc.
Nestlé Waters North America purchased the spring and approximately 850 acres surrounding it in 1987 and began selling bottled Deer Park® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water. Nestlé Waters NA began in 1976 and at that time sold only Perrier® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water. The company expanded to its current fifteen brands of bottled waters and teas, Deer Park® water among them. This brand is sold in the mid-Atlantic and southeast.
But are we really drinking water from the original spring, the Boiling Spring, located near the old Deer Park resort hotel? According to a 2001 story in the Baltimore Sun newspaper, Nestlé “announced that it was finally turning off the spigot of its Deer Park Mountain Spring Water plant in Garrett County, and shipping bottling elsewhere. … Starting in September, its production will be switched to plants in Allentown, Pa., and Florida, ending its association with the Western Maryland town of its birth.”
The company itself says (in a statement revised in December 2012), “Due to the tremendous popularity of the brand, we have carefully selected additional spring sources in many other areas that will continue to deliver the great taste of Deer Park® Brand Natural Spring Water for many years to come.” The springs used as sources are located in places such as Bangor, Stroudsburg, New Tripoli, Hegins, South Coventry and Pine Grove, Pa.; Hohenwald, Tenn.; St. Albans, Maine; Lake County, Pasco County, Liberty County and Madison County, Fla.; and Oakland, Md. Oakland is the county seat of Garrett County and only a few miles from the town of Deer Park. (Could this location refer to the original spring, the Boiling Spring near Deer Park?)
So what exactly are we drinking? Spring water, yes, but not necessarily from the Deer Park spring. And as of December 2012, this drinking water contains a variety of minerals: calcium, sodium, potassium, fluoride, magnesium, bicarbonate, nitrate, chloride and sulfate. The pH ranges from 5.6 – 8.3. The mineral content “contributes to the legendary taste of Deer Park® Brand Natural Spring Water. … This … is what gives …[the water] its personality”
Fresh water drawn from natural springs and brought to us in 5 gallon recyclable, refillable bottles set on a cooler: this is what we are drinking. Does it actually have to come from that old western Maryland spring for us to enjoy our conveniently located source of cold water?
For information about the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, see
Alexander, J. H. Opinion on a Portion of the Location for the Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road.
Bowen, Eli. Rambles in the Path of the Steam-Horse …
Dilts, James D. The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore and Ohio, the Nation’s First Railroad, 1828 – 1853.
Harwood, Herbert H. Impossible Challenge: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Maryland.
Hungerford, Edward. The Story of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, 1827 – 1927.
Stover, John F. History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
For information about Deer Park water and Deer Park Hotel, see “The Story of the B&O’s Famous Deer Park Spring Water” and “Famous People for Many Years Have Visited Deer Park Hotel”
Article by Alice Bampton, digital image specialist and senior writer on the Communication and Service Promotion team. B&O logo retrieved from http://borhs.org/. Cat gif from Giphy.com. Deer Park logo photo by Alice Bampton.
We understand, times are tough. The $5.00 toll to ride on the Walt Whitman Bridge can take a heavy toll on your lunch money for the week. Fortunately, stay-cationers, we have a sunny paradise right here on campus on which to to sun your toes and zinc your nose. Sheehan Beach – that lovely expansion of grass and clover leading down to Lancaster Avenue (the view of which is obscured only by a row of tiger lilies,) has been a destination for Villanovans for years now. In fact, let’s let the scribes from the staff of the 1988 Belle Air pick up from here….
Can I view old Belle Air yearbooks, too?
Yes! These are not digitized, but the library does has paper format only of the yearbooks available for browsing during library hours. Check our home page for hours – which do often vary during this time of year.
Here is the following information on the title and holdings:
Title: Belle-air. Publisher: [Villanova, Pa. : Villanova College, 1922- . Call Number: LD4834 .S75
Available Volume Holdings: 1922, 1924-1941, 1943-2004, 2006- to present. Ask at Circulation for the specific volume.
My family didn’t take the Walt Whitman Bridge when we drove to the Jersey shore, at least not at first. My father wanted my brothers, sisters and me to experience crossing the Delaware River on a ferry. He must have known that mode of river-crossing was soon to vanish, for riding the Chester-Bridgeport ferry (pictures, video, map) to and from New Jersey each summer we witnessed the Commodore John Barry Bridge in its various stages of construction. It became the highlight of our commute; in comparison, our subsequent trek across New Jersey on Route 322, the “Black Horse Pike,” seemed interminable.
A bridge by any other name?—The fourth longest cantilever bridge in the world, which connects Delaware County, Pa. with New Jersey, opened on February 1, 1974 after nearly five years of construction. Before its completion, though, controversy erupted when its name was announced. Denizens of Chester, Pa. preferred the name William Penn over that of a little-known military figure from the American Revolution. So strong were the objections that one state senator even predicted area residents would reject the name Commodore John Barry and refer to the span as the Chester-Bridgeport Bridge.
Still, proponents argued that John Barry, aka the “Father of the American Navy,” had ties to Chester. Barry had brought his Navy ship to Chester for repairs. Barry had also arranged for food in New Jersey, destined for the soldiers at Valley Forge, to be transported across the river to Chester. Despite that state senator’s prediction in 1973, people used the bridge’s proposed name (Source).
Cracks form—Mere months after it opened, engineers discovered cracks appearing in some of the bridge’s upright girders. Although the location and size of these cracks did not threaten the span’s safety, engineers added supports to fortify the structure and sensors to monitor it. At that time, people expressed doubts about the bridge’s structural integrity, but now—40 years later—the Commodore Barry Bridge still stands, carrying 35,000 vehicles per day between Delaware County, Pa. and New Jersey (Sources—Commodore Barry Bridge: Historic Overview, Commodore Barry Bridge).
Contrary to one state’s senator’s opinion, the enduring legacy of Commodore John Barry lives on – not just on the toll plaza of the bridge, but also by Commodore John Barry Hall on our main campus – home to the Villanova University Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. An even more personal way to get to know the Commodore is through perusing Villanova University’s Digital Library Barry-Hayes Papers. The Barry-Hayes Papers are the business, political and personal papers of John Barry, Captain of the United States Navy, and of his family, especially his nephew Patrick Hayes and grand-nephew, Patrick Barry Hayes. The collection includes correspondence, letterbooks, diaries, logbooks, legal and financial papers related to Barry’s career in the Navy, the business ventures of the Hayes, Keen and Somers families, and their personal lives. This collection brings together materials from the Independence Seaport Museum.
For information about preservation, access, and use of this historic collection visit the Barry-Hayes Papers project page.
Article by Gerald Dierkes, information services specialist for the Information and Research Assistance team, senior copy-editor for the Communication and Service Promotion team and a liaison to the Department of Theater. Special thanks to Michael Foight, Special Collections and Digital Library coordinator.