Tolstoy’s War and Peace: Short Chapters

9/17/13

The short chapters are something else I have noticed. I like that type of structure. It allows for a lot of temporal leaps, long or short, and for efficient and direct storytelling. Stops any meandering or over philosophizing or purple description. It reminds me of Breaking Bad‘s method of cutting action with jump cuts and skipping over conversations that we already know the content of. Bolaño also works in short chapters in The Savage Detectives and 2666. So does Walser in Jakob von Gunten.

Even authors like Wallace and Pynchon, who sometimes let their chapters go to epic lengths, still operate on the principle of self-contained chapters. Ones that reset to give a new train of thought its own room or to let a sequence be driven by its own momentum. Like a film set piece or a short story.

Other authors like Saul Bellow and W.G. Sebald go from tangent to tangent. Mostly it seems like their chapters are just arbitrary, like they are taking a breath, or more so that they want to insert the type of commentary that can only go at the beginning or end of chapters and books. Grand statements, final words, the summing up of truth.

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