For the last month, a deep, almost mournful, silence has hovered over New York publishing circles. After eight years and 86 episodes, The Sopranos is finished. No longer will it be acceptable to veer mid-conversation from Don DeLillo into David Chase's fictional New Jersey, where Cadillac-driving mobsters hack at each other with Homeric style. No more will we speculate on where Carmela Soprano buys her teal pantsuits.
From coast to coast, from white-wine sipping yuppies to real life mobsters, The Sopranos has had Americans talking - even those of us not familiar with the difficulty of illegal interstate trucking or how to bury a body in packed snow. While the New York Times called upon Michael Chabon, Elmore Leonard and Michael Connelly to resurrect the serial novel in its Sunday Magazine, critics were calling Chase the Dickens of our time. The final episode roped in some 11.9 million viewers. One major question, though, remains. Has Tony Soprano whacked the American novel?