Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Keeping Up With A Series — or Four

A series of books is a delight and a weighty responsibility.

I have four collections going right now, and I've almost surrendered. Each book in every series is heavy with plot, character development. Tiny frayed threads beg to be woven into the larger tapestry of the rich brocade of, say, A Discovery of Witches or A Map of Time. And yet —

How can I resist such luscious stories?

I began the All Souls Trilogy in 2011. When the second book, Shadow of Night, hit the shelves in 2012, I nearly jumped at the opportunity to read the first book again so I was properly acquainted with the nuances of the story.

Until I read the author's website.

Seems there was no release date for the third book. Honestly, I can't remember what I had for breakfast most mornings, so I am wont to begin a series without a strong enough commitment to re-read as necessary — particularly such a rich novel.

I waited until I knew the release date for The Book of Life. It's in five months' time. Now the decisions must be made: When do I start the first novel again? When do I start the second tome? And how do I prevent author repeat-itis?

It may seem silly to worry about such a thing. I've read every Stephanie Plum book without a problem. I know what Grandma Mazur is up to, and I'll find out whether Stephanie is on-again with Joe, or off-again. Karen Marie Moning's Fever series also is easy to pick up after a hiatus: Mac tells us what we need to know to get back up to speed.

However, therein lies the difference between a series and a trilogy. A series will remind you that Stephanie drives Big Blue when her car is blown up (or stolen or crashed or...). Mac will remind you that she fed un-Seelie to the police officer, who now hungers for more.

A trilogy, in contrast, is finite, hopefully tight and spare. One doesn't expect to have too many prompts and reminders in such a "short" collection. I re-read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children in January in anticipation of the second novel's release. Now that it feels like a series, I am almost sorry I did: I could have been reminded of all of the important stuff as the book went along. Don't get me wrong: the novel was a great read, but I have plenty on my nightstand to finish in this lifetime without unnecessary re-reading.

I discovered Margaret Atwood's apocalyptic trilogy after The Year of the Flood, the second book, was released, so I'm biding my time now that all three are available. I'll weave all three into my regular list so I can enjoy each one in its own time.

However, the Witches series felt denser, more complex. I enjoyed it too much to miss out on any subtlety in the books that followed. (Plus, time travel!) I want to read the third as soon as I can, but I can't figure out how to squeeze in the first two in the short time I have. I may have to pace myself more slowly, much to my dismay.

And The Map series? I have teased myself with it long enough. It will be mine this spring or summer. Yes, it will be mine...

UPDATE: In related news, Powell's Books asked an important question: where do you begin in a "new to you" series?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

How did we get to be old ladies—
my grandmother's job—when we 
were the long-leggèd girls? 
— Hilma Wolitzer 

Instead of marrying the day after graduation,
in spite of freezing on my father's arm as 
here comes the bride struck up, 
saying, I'm not sure I want to do this, 
I should have taken that fellowship 
to the University of Grenoble to examine 
the original manuscript 
of Stendhal's unfinished Lucien Leuwen
I, who had never been west of the Mississippi, 
should have crossed the ocean 
in third class on the Cunard White Star,
the war just over, the Second World War 
when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito, 
two eyes and a nose draped over 
a fence line. How could I go? 
Passion had locked us together. 
Sixty years my lover, 
he says he would have waited. 
He says he would have sat 
where the steamship docked 
till the last of the pursers 
decamped, and I rushed back
littering the runway with carbon paper...
Why didn't I go? It was fated. 
Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand, 
flesh against flesh for the final haul,
we tugged our lifeline through limestone and sand, 
lover and long-leggèd girl. 

From Still to Mow by Maxine Kumin.