That’s a question raised by a controversial recent piece on the Grantland site and by a critique posted today on the Times op-ed page. As Jonathan Mahler puts it:
There’s a lot of excellent magazine-length journalism being done now, and Grantland publishes plenty of it. The problem is that long-form stories are too often celebrated simply because they exist. And are long. “Long-form, on the web, is in danger of meaning ‘a lot of words,’ ” as James Bennet wrote recently in The Atlantic, the magazine he edits.
Turns out, there are some unknown number of readers who like long articles and books and will hang in there through thousands upon thousands of words (provided, I assume, that the words are actually interesting).
Don’t take my word for it. Look at sites like longform and longreads. Get comfortable.
Don’t miss this marvelous essay about essays by one who knows — Philip Lopate. He is the editor of The Art of the Personal Essayand a prolific essayer in his own right. I love his emphasis on doubt and on the use of the essay to explore doubt. In an age of assertion, this seems worth remembering, or at least I think so.