Every now and then, you’ll hear somebody talk about the good ol’ days when magazines used to love original fiction to the point where they’d serialize entire novels, and how come nobody does that anymore, blah blah blah? Of course, print and online publications do make the occasional effort, which everybody oohs and ahhs over before it fades away and we go back to wondering why people don’t serialize novels in magazines more often. The latest iteration of this cycle comes from Harper’s, which began running J. Robert Lennon’s Happyland last month in the first of five installments. The Ithaca Times probes the backstory behind the novel’s origins, which stem from events unfolding in nearby Aurora. Not that this would’ve taken much figuring out, as it’s hard to miss the connection between the real-life American Girl founder Pleasant Rowland, who spent $40 million of her own money on aesthetic improvements to Aurora real estate, and Lennon’s Happy Masters, the CEO of the fiction Happy Girls. “I resisted writing this book for a long time precisely because it was inspired by something real,” Lennon admits, saying that he didn’t really do any research and that if Happy’s based on anyone, it’s…Karl Rove?
Still, those similarities led to W.W. Norton’s rejection of the novel earlier this year, which ultimately led to the serialization. “It’s Harper’s first novel-in-serial in 50 years,” notes the Times, “a fact not lost on those in the publishing world.” If so, the publishing world is being awfully quiet about it; apart from that PW piece back in May, most of the attention Happyland’s getting so far is from upstate New York and a handful of appreciative bookbloggers. What do you think: Is serialization viable in this day and age?