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Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Series Are Wonderful, But.....

There is so much that can be celebrated about books and reading in general. Stories written today are fast paced, feature interesting characters and plots that keep the reader begging for more. Librarians in general love this. After all, without great writers and their stories, the bookshelves would be bare. (That includes the virtual bookshelf too.) For every "great" idea there is a side effect that can be considered the "down" side of the idea. Yes, with all the wonderful authors there is a down side. Serials. It seems that this is all that publishers want to put out these days. Look at the children's books, Diary of A Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson and not to be forgotten, the one who may have started this crazy trend, Harry Potter. Adult titles have gone the same route with canned series from such authors as James Patterson, Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton. This blog may cause authors, librarians and avid readers alike to scream in unison that serials are good because they cultivate readers. While this fact is not being disputed, another viewpoint is being offered to be considered. To put it delicately, serials are to the mind what sitcoms are to the eyes. They are great for entertainment but eventually the excitement fades. From that point, everything is stale, from the plots, to the characters and to the style in which distinguishes the author's work. Rarely is there an author who can keep a readers attention with the same character and story line for an extended period. Many will point out that Evanovich's Stephanie Plum has managed to entertain her audience through eighteen stories, (Number nineteen will be out soon) and there does not seem to be an end in sight for Stephanie Plum. While this may be true, one has to ask themselves how long can Ms. Evanovich be able to keep things fresh and new? The publishers and the author may be hoping through number one hundred but it just doesn't seem "logical" that readers would hang around that long with one character. Series that must be read in order can deter a late-comer from picking up the series to begin with. Classic characters such as Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes never required the reader to begin with their first story in order to enjoy the series. All one had to do was to pick up one story and be introduced to the characters. It was simple, quick and a wonderful way to meet a new fictional friend. In modern serials, it almost feels as though the reader has made a contract with the series that they will be involved from book one all the way to the end. Can this be a stretch? An exaggeration? Yes. Should all libraries protest these series and ban them? Nope. As a cheerful capitalist once stated: the market will decide when the characters should fade into the reader's memory. Indeed that is true. Harsh reality but true none the less. So why complain about series when there really doesn't seem to be a great big problem? Consider this a plea to the publishing world and the authors who write wonderful novels, to create a nice balance of series and stand alone stories. There are readers who will follow a series just for guilty pleasure,(Try Vampirates, its a wonderful trot into a world that is unique and it is definitely a pleasure that will not make one feel guilty.) and that's a good thing. However, once in a while it would be wonderful if there is a story that entertains the reader with only two covers and the pages in between. Once the last page is turned, there should be a sense of closure. Series just don't provide that. In this hectic world of ours, sometimes a perfect ending is what a reader really needs and wants.
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