I have had…a problem for a while. It was, as usual, an attitude problem.
It was the whole series thing. Percy Jackson. Magic Treehouse. Harry Potter. Series, series, series, it was making me sort of crazy. Are there any just books anymore, I cried out to the heavens.
And then I came home to find Diana sprawled on the couch reading, post-library. I asked her how the library was, because I'm someone's mother now and am compelled to ask innumerable obvious questions. She said, "Good. Daddy got the best book in the world."
"The best book in the world?"
"Yeah." She seemed pretty matter-of-fact, not impressed or anything, but to me it suggested further investigating, which is how (and why) I eventually found out the best book in the world: the memoirs of Casanova. Note: if you are the e-reading sort you can get this FOR FREE, which is pretty amazing, given that it is, apparently, the best book in the world. Note the second: this book is very, very dirty. But exceedingly well-written.
Now, his memoirs apparently run to sixteen volumes, so best book was really first volume of best book. Which made me remember something: volumes are really series. And books have ALWAYS been in series. Well, not always always. I mean, Pride & Prejudice isn't part of a series (despite the ignoble attempts to add on to it), but so much of Dickens, etc, that was published as serials, which are really series. This whole series thing is old, not new. It is not, necessarily, a sign of a civilization in decline.
I am beginning to hear myself and wonder whether I'm only OK with books that are CLASSICS and have OBVIOUS LITERARY MERIT (gee, this is like Dickens, which means it's A-OK!). But it's not the classicism that reassures me (I think). It's just reassuring to think of this endless wave of series (serieses?) has some precedent, and isn't issuing from some drastic narrowing of our collective imagination, able only to repeat variations on the same story over and over again, comfortable hearing only about characters we've already accepted, in a television version of reality that shrinks and shrinks until our humanity has vanished.
See, don't you feel better now?