Installation Art

Rebooting the Serial Novel

It's beside the point to say that readers are already overloaded with the task of following a multitude of ongoing story lines in the news: the Valerie Plame leak, steroid use in Major League Baseball, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, the celebrity romances, and so on. But news stories inevitably disappoint us as stories. Sometimes the lag between installments is too great to sustain interest, and sometimes there's not enough time between them and not enough suspense is created. With serial fiction, the updates are made on a helpfully predictable schedule, even if the plots are full of twists.

When they appear as books, Cornwell, Kirn, and Bennett's novels won't necessarily appeal to the same readers, but they all bear the hallmarks of the thriller genre. Victims are in trouble, heroes take risks, and villains overreach. As genre fiction, they provide focus to the distracted, patterns to the confused, comfort to the beleaguered. In other words, good news for anyone who reads the papers.


See also:
  • Mehta Fiction
    Enjoying the source of the latest plagiarism scandal
    by Ed Park

  • Chain Reaction
    Do bookstores have a future?
    by Paul Collins

  • A Gesture Life
    Rachel Aviv reviews Curtis Sittenfeld's The Man of My Dreams

  • After Nature
    The world's most dangerous architect
    has his say
    Jeff Byles reviews Christopher Alexander's The Nature of Order

  • The Thin Read Line
    Alan Gilbert reviews Language to Cover a Page: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci

  • Can't Stop Won't Stop
    Joyce Carol Oates's 'Professional Fascination With Evil'
    by Jenny Davidson

  • The New Poetry
    Joshua Clover on Kevin Davies

  • The Dead Mother
    All in the family with Donald Antrim
    by James Browning

  • Schoolhouse Lock
    Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow reviews Pankaj Mishra's Temptations of the West

  • What the Butler Saw
    In which we summarize Proust competition
    by Benjamin Strong

  • Mark Swartz is the author of the novels Instant Karma (2002) and H2O (forthcoming).
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