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Jumping the Shark?

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This week BTT asks:

If you read series, do you ever find a series “jumping the shark?” How do you feel about that? And, do you keep reading anyway?

I have never heard of the phrase “jumping the shark” so I had to look up the idiom’s meaning first. Wikipedia says the idiom is used to describe the moment of downturn for a previously successful enterprise.

I don’t recall reading a lot of series, but if one just misses the mark, I’ll keep reading because author is just another human being, we all have a bad day. As tolerant and magnanimous I can be, the jumping-the-shark grace doesn’t apply to the first book in a series. An example is the Thursday Next series. I thought an alternate history and literary novel would be right up my alley, until three attempts to read The Eyre Affair, which I ruefully returned to the bookstore. A disengaging first volume would inevitably nick the chance of the whole series. Then there’s the issue of order. I absolutely love Agatha Christie. But I know deep down in my heart that I would have enjoyed her books more profusely had I not read Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Was None first. The good thing is that her books aren’t really considered series, unless you read the Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot systematically. These three mysteries were rebounces after a long time. Red herrings galore make Christie’s works very re-readable. Harry Potter series I never finished. I stopped after Book 4, not because it’s jumping the shark (how I love this new phrase), but because each volume is packed with so many details that make my head dizzy. I will keep reading, but not in tandem.

9 Responses

  1. I’m with you. I had never heard of the phrase “jumping the shark” either. Wonder where that one originated? Anyway. I enjoyed reading your answer about series. For what it is worth the Eyre Affair is one of the most bizarre books I have ever read. I kept thinking that while I was reading it, too. I kept thinking, “This book is so weird, I can’t get my brain around it,” but I prevailed and was glad I did. However, I never went on and read any other books by Fforde. Guess I didn’t like it that much.

  2. I am glad you explained what “jumping the shark” is, as I had no idea either!

  3. I love series, and I do agree with you that Agatha Christie’s books weren’t really series, I think it may have been her books that introduced me to continuing characters!

  4. I can’t think of a book series that did this for me but I find it happens a lot to movie franchises.

  5. Oh no! I’m so sorry that you were never able to get into The Eyre Affair. As you know, Jasper Fforde is one of my much beloved authors, and I love reading Thursday Next’s adventures. But I do see how they might not be for everyone… you’ve certainly given it a good try!

  6. I couldn’t agree more regarding The Eyre Affair. I somehow managed to push my way through to the end (there was some skimming involved), but so very disappointing.

  7. The phrase “jumping the shark” came from an episode of the TV show “Happy Days.” In one episode Fonzie decided to jump his motorcycle over a tank of sharks. Many viewers thought this was the point where “Happy Days” lost its relevance.

  8. If I’m attached to the characters in a series, I’ll just keep reading as well; after all, especially with mysteries, sometimes the crimes themselves can dramatically affect my response to a particular book, increasing my interest or increasing my discomfort (!), yet my underlying motivation is the continued attachment to the cast of characters. And, one person’s downturn is another’s success, I suppose.

  9. It takes more than one bad book in a series to make me stop reading it. Every author has ups and downs and one or two bad or mediocre books in an otherwise good series doesn’t mean a thing. A run of three or more bad books is more serious.

    Two series that for me have jumped the shark were Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books, which I stopped reading when they stopped being thrillers and became porn, and Lillian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who books, when the quality of the mystery elements dropped.

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