Thursday, November 8, 2007

Shopaholic Shelf Life


I'm reading Sophie Kinsella's current Shopaholic book - Shopaholic & Baby - and quite frankly I don't know if I'm having a good time or not.

I'll admit to being a huge admirer of Kinsella's work under her other name, Madeleine Wickham. The Gatecrasher remains one of my all-time favorite pleasure reads: witty, subversive, moving and unpleasant and everything in between. She has a way of taking you by the hand, leading you down the garden path, then pushing you off a cliff you didn't even know was there.
But back to the Sophie Kinsellas. I'm beginning to think I'm a wee bit shopped out. There is, quite frankly, just so much dumb I can take and Becky Bloomwood Brandon may have crossed the line in this one. (Although I seem to remember saying the same thing after reading the one before this one.)
Which proves a thesis I've been formulating: the shelf life for series books is surprisingly short. Robert B. Parker and Sue Grafton notwithstanding, I'm not sure if any series (no matter how wonderful) is meant to last beyond five books. Sure there are exceptions to every rule, but I find my interest begins to wane around book four or five. The eccentricities stop being quite so charming. The set pieces feel contrived. The thrill is gone and it's unlikely book six is gonna bring it back.
It's a rare author who can keep it going past that point and keep it surprising. Kinsella (who is a truly gifted writer) is working with especially difficult constraints: if Becky Bloomwood Brandon ever gets a handle on her shopaholic ways, the series is over. Nobody wants to read about BBB clipping coupons or waiting for the yearly sale at Harrod's to stock up on cashmere scarves.
Maybe it's me. Maybe my attention span is growing shorter with age. Or maybe it's the problem that seems to affect most writers I know: The Oz Syndrome. Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy sees beyond the special effects and realizes the Great and Terrible Oz is nothing more than a failed snake-oil salesman from Kansas?
"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." Reading for pleasure is much more fun if a writer can manage to do that.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Mia said...

One of my favorite non-romance authors is Kathy Reichs. And she seemed to hit a stumbling block with one particular book in her series on Temperance Brennen. But she recovered with the next book. But some people just drag out the series too far. My attention span is short so I will not put up with poorly written books anymore.

November 8, 2007 at 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Brandy said...

Alot of people feel that The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is also treading water, where nothing new happens and the same patterns are formed. I enjoy the series myself, but I'm not looking for major changes anymore.
As for the Shopaholic books, I'll admit I've never read them. *g*
Lifes is too short and there are too many books out there to continue to read a series you've lost interest in. (That's not too harsh, is it?)

November 8, 2007 at 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Barbara Bretton said...

That's the problem: (speaking strictly as a reader here) I get upset when a beloved author suddenly changes styles or doesn't quite deliver what I've come to expect. Unfortunately I also get upset when my beloved author delivers it in exactly the same way, except more shopworn each time.

I've heard the same comment about the Stephanie Plum series, Brandy, but for me it comes down to one word: Ranger. If he keeps showing up in the books, I'll keep buying 'em!

November 9, 2007 at 8:36 AM  
Anonymous Brandy said...

I hear you on the Ranger front! I like him MUCH more than Joe Morelli! Morelli keeps trying to change her and Ranger just lets her be her crazy self.

November 9, 2007 at 5:10 PM  

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