Big Books in Times of Big Data examines recent trends of size and scale in the novel in terms of the shift from the bound book to the newer materialities of the digital. Using a wide-ranging international archive of hefty tomes by authors such as Mark Z. Danielewski, Roberto Bolaño, Elena Ferrante, and Karl Ove Knausgård, George R.R. Martin, Jonathan Franzen, and William T. Vollmann, Van de Ven reflects on the place of big book-bound literature in a media genealogy which includes film and television but also online databases, social media, selfies, and Global Information Systems. This study makes a case for the cultural agency of the big book—as a material object and a discursive phenomenon, entangled in complex ways with questions of canonicity, mediality, gender, and power. Van de Ven takes us into a contested bookish terrain beyond the 1,000-page mark, where issues of scale and readerly comprehension clash with authorial aggrandizement and the pleasures of ‘binging’ and serial consumption.
Inge van de Ven is Assistant Professor of Online Culture in the Department of Culture Studies at Tilburg School of Humanities & Digital Sciences. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Utrecht University, where she also completed postdoctoral research on creativity in education. She was a 2018-’19 Core Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Budapest.
A superb book [that] explores the aesthetics, the medial affordances, and the cultural economics of monumental literary works in the present. Balancing careful close readings of such door-stop books as Danielewski’s The Familiar and Bolaño’s 2666 with wide-ranging discussions of big data epistemologies, media change, and evolving forms of literacy, Big Books in Times of Big Data is a perfect blend of comparative media studies and literary analysis.
The study is very well written and seamlessly integrates readings of complex large-scale literary works with new theory across literary studies, feminism, digital and media studies.