Remember when “binge” was a word we didn’t take lightly?
Formerly, it applied to individuals straying into saloons or meeting with bad company and succumbing to more beverages than originally intended. Despite advice from embroidered samplers or wise elders, Moderation In All Things proved impossible just then. Such incidents were also called “sprees” (crime sprees were likewise deplorable–unlike shopping sprees, which are somehow cute. But I digress.)
While admitting the dangers of bingeing with drink or food, we recognize how perfectly that word encapsulates excess. So we borrow it for blithely self-confessed (thus excusable) overindulgences of all sorts. At Book Expo America this year, “binge-reading potential” was applied as a compliment for any author whose latest book keeps readers turning the pages well into the night or whose series tempt fans to consume one book after the other, like bon-bons.
The phrase would be music to authors’ ears; for readers, it places us in good company. At my house, the sampler would read “Moderation Except Books, Chocolate, and Guacamole.” But I don’t embroider–I read. And lately my husband and I have also binge-watched House of Cards, thanks to the library’s Season One DVD collection. The only reason we haven’t zoomed through Season Two in a shockingly brief time span is that we’re too frugal to buy the set and are waiting to borrow the library’s copy.
Happily, delayed gratification isn’t an issue with two forthcoming novels: Jane Smiley’s Some Luck and Deborah Harkness’ trilogy-concluding The Book of Life. Both copies accompanied me home from Book Expo.
Those of us fortunate to receive Harkness’ book were asked not to comment on the story until July 15, so I won’t (just know that you will not be disappointed.)
But here is the irresistible premise of Some Luck: First of The Last Hundred Years trilogy, the story spans 1920 to 1953, each chapter depicting one year in the life of the Langdons, an Iowa farm family. The trilogy will end with 2020: 100 years, 100 chapters. Incisively viewing social history as the Langdon’s five children experience it, the story also brilliantly conveys family dynamics: parental preferences and expectations, implications of birth order, etc. Smiley’s gift for interweaving both telling private moments and large-scale events produces an immersive reading experience.
And that’s the problem-at least for me. Deeply engaged with the characters in Some Luck, I devoured it, staying up late one night and (thank goodness for weekends) resuming reading the next day, finishing before lunch. I wasn’t prepared to part with the Langdons yet, but I couldn’t restrain myself from following their fortunes as far as I could as soon as I could.
And now, the interval before the second book will be even longer because this was an advance reading copy.
What do we learn from my example? Probably nothing: I defy you to pace yourself sedately when you get your hands on Some Luck (which may happen for you sooner than the October publication; we’ll be offering the autographed ARC as a drawing prize on Facebook sometime in the next couple of weeks).