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Soap World by Robert LaGuardia

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As a holiday gift to myself I bought a used copy of Soap World.  I read it when I was 16 and it was the first time that I had the house to myself for a weekend while my parents traveled.  I bought the book, a Sara Lee coffee cake and brewed a pot of coffee.  Then, I stayed up all night and read it cover to cover.  It was no wonder that parents were comfortable leaving me alone; no wild parties, just soaps and Sara Lee.

 

I am sure that many will recall the errors in the text.  However, re-reading it really amazed me.  It is filled with funny asides.  He spends a long time on one story and then rushes through the next.  It is also a remarkably big text considering that he wrote the whole thing from scratch, not using pre-published summaries.  It was $3.50 well spent and I recommend it if you can find a vintage copy.

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Yes, Soap World is a fun read. I have my copy from decades ago, and curiously enough, was thinking about picking it up and reading it again while I'm still on Christmas break. 

 

Many soap-related books contain errors in storyline history or basic facts. Even Agnes Nixon's recent autobiography had glaring mistakes which left me shaking my head, but I have to remember that most editors would not even pick up on, let alone be able to correct, mistakes from shows that aired decades ago.  Author Christopher Schemering was pretty good, though. If you have not already read them, you should try to find his Soap Opera Encyclopedia and The Guiding Light 50th: A 50th Anniversary Celebration.

 

Also worth getting:

 

--The Wonderful World of TV Soap Operas and From Ma Perkins to Mary Hartman, by Robert LaGuardia

--From Mary Noble to Mary Hartman by Madeleine Edmonson and David Rounds

--The Love of Their Lives by Lynne Rogers

 

While the Soaps & Serials novelizations drove me crazy, there are other soap novelizations floating around. The Guiding Light, by Dr. John Ruthledge is an historical treasure from decades ago, which I am happy to have.

 

The Young and the Restless: The Story of Chris and Snapper, and The Young and the Restless: The Story of Leslie and Brad, both by Deborah Sherwood, and not examples of Shakespearean writing, but they are nostalgic and moderately entertaining.

 

Another World, Volumes One and Two, by Kate Lowe Kerrigan should also be on your reading list. They recount the Alice/Steven/Rachel story from the AW's heyday. These books are pretty accurate, and may help you develop fresh sympathy for Alice and Mary Matthews, ROTF. :)

 

Emily McLaughlin: Portrait of a Soap star, was written by the GH actress' daughter, Mary Ann Anderson. It's rather sparse, but detail's McLaughlin's struggles with the show and the network as she got older and her health woes increased. Good luck finding this one, however. The last time I saw it on sale on the internet, the asking price was $700.00!

 

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That is a great reading list.

 

I've read both of the Schemering books, as well as the Soaps & Serials series.  Amazon had $1 versions of the large anniversary books for AMC, AW, Y&R, Days, OLTL, ATWT, and Bold, as well as the Museum of Television book World without Ends that I've read over the years. I've also read Kate Lowe Kerrigan's AW books; still not an Alice fan. 

 

I think what makes Soap World remarkable was that prior version, like Soaps & Serials, had tried to "novelize" the soaps while LaGuardia took a more academic approach to recording soap cannon.  It is shame that there isn't more information contemporary to the book available online.  I would have loved to know more about his process.

 

Re-reading it I also came up with a new soap theory.  Soap anniversaries weren't commemorated as frequently in the 70's and 80's when more new soaps were started.  Also, soaps were not initially valued for their longevity.  I am starting to believe that most soaps were never meant to last more than a decade.  However, the nostalgia for long term story telling became valued more than contemporary creativity and that was one of the proverbial nails in the coffin for soaps.  When I read about How to Survive a Marriage, I am struck by the attempt to write about ideas that were salient to the times.  A decade later if a writer wanted to develop stories based on modern concerns they had to do it in the context of characters that had decades of history.  As a result, long term fans bail because they mourn the loss of legacy characters and new fans find the burden of learning thirty years of history a barrier to entry. 

 

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My copy of Soap World is in tatters through constant rereading and referencing. It was the first book that went into so much detail on shows and stories. Pre internet it was treasure trove.

 

I would also suggest The Soap Opera Book by Manuela Soares from the mid 70s. Lots of background about the genre and characters and stories of that time.

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