Author photo

By Midge Lyndee
Book Review 

Serial Time

The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment


October 14, 2023

Serials were discussed a few years back in a previous book review. At the time we sponsored our own Loop serial called "Valley of Light" with contributions from the community. It's time to try it again!

A serial is where a story is divided up into segments and given to readers a bit at a time. Charles Dickens wrote his novels and published them in serial form, some weekly, others monthly, leaving his readers yearning for more. Serials have a constant story arc that proceeds forward over time, not unlike the early television series. Each week audiences were on the edge of their seats to find out what antics Beaver would get into or watch the next crazy stunt from Lucy. Later it was "who shot J.R." in Dallas. Recently audiences have been invited to binge on shows like "Jack Ryan" and "The Wheel of Time," without having to wait for newspaper delivery or a weekly television show. Streaming and binging has become all the rage.

However, the ingenious art in serials should not be overlooked in its primal form because it is indeed an art. Think of the creativity of the stories and the skill a writer must wield to keep the attention of audiences in newspapers, with no visuals, only printed words on cheap paper. Authors created something so enticing, readers would be counting the moments until the next installment arrived.

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote "Tarzan of the Apes," printed in the magazine "The All-Story" in October 1912 and released it as his first novel in 1914. The serial and book were so popular that Burroughs continued writing Tarzan adventures. The stories eventually ended up on both the small and silver screen for viewers worldwide. Tarzan's adventures captivated its audience.

With the birth of those weekly television series in the 1950s, newspaper and magazine serials declined. But in 1978, Armistead Maupin started regular installments of his "Tales of the City" in San Francisco newspapers that swept the reading public into the loves, joys, heartaches and fears of the growing gay community within the heart of San Francisco. Maupin poured his own heart and life into the story of Anna Madrigal and her tenants on 28 Barbary Lane. His work opened doors and minds with its gut wrenching truths about a once closeted segment of society that braved the light of day into a world that did not understand or accept them. Maupin showed them how to love and accept themselves.

By 1984 Tom Wolfe attacked corporate culture wars with his controversial 27 part serial in "Rolling Stone" magazine, "The Bonfire of the Vanities." Taking on ambition, racism, classism, politics and greed, Wolfe stirred the masses to look from offices to streets to courtrooms at the people being steadily throttled and manipulated by callous conglomerates.

On a much softer level, Alexander McCall Smith started his "44 Scotland Street" serial in the Edinburgh newspaper "The Scotsman" in 2004. Apartment flatmates and tenants merge into the ebb and flow of daily life until a painting Pat has brought home from the gallery for safekeeping is accidentally sold. Not to be returned would be at Pat's great peril indeed, as the painting is suddenly thought to be quite valuable.

As you can see, serials survived through centuries, all sizes, topics big and small. The most enduring longevity of a serial streams into the life of a book, television series or movie by enticing the mind, opening the soul and touching the heart. A serial draws you in and keeps you wanting more. A serial can also be a doorway to offering an author's work to a larger readership beyond family and friends.

That is why I invite any writers and would be writers to join us in the newest Loop Serial. Take a chance, join in on the fun and imagine something mysterious is happening in our little town. By the way, I'm sure you have met a few ravens or two in Tehachapi. Or have you?

Good books. Good reading.

*Midge Lyn'dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the views are real and sincere.


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