The Big Let Down
This morning I read a blog about the worst book ever written. I wanted to comment, I’ve read some pretty awful books over the years, but I couldn’t remember the names of any of the books I wanted to suggest for title of worst book ever. I can think of some, I can describe them, but I don’t remember what they were called. I guess they were so bad that my brain chose not to store any of their pertinent information. Too bad.
What I did think of were books with terrible endings. These are not necessarily bad writers or bad books, and I don’t know if that makes it better or worse, but the endings are terrible. Let’s discuss.
As a reader, I make an investment in a book. A financial investment, an emotional investment, it’s a leap of faith. If I really get into a book then that investment becomes even deeper and more profound. I love the book, I am one with it, I will read it over and over again just to recapture the feeling that the book gives me.
As a writer I make an equal or greater investment than that of a reader. I am driven to write the story. The story is its own force, one I might not feel I really control. I completely inconvenience myself, torture myself and give up any semblance of a life or free time. I not only love my story and my characters, I sacrifice a lot to make sure they come spewing forth from myself in a truly fabulous way. I write for myself first, and most of the time I don’t care at all about my reader. That is a controversial attitude.
That said, let me present two books whose author’s completely let me down. Who am I to judge them? No one. This is just my opinion. Caution: bad endings will be spoiled by reading this post.
Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin – This is the sequel to Rosemary’s Baby. It’s actually not that bad of a book, until the end. I physically tossed this book across the room in a fit of profanity when I finished. Not only does Ira Levin ruin this book with his terrible, lazy ending, he also manages to ruin Rosemary’s Baby as well. I’m pretty sure in grade 10 english I learned to never, ever, EVER end anything with “it was all a dream.” If that’s the best you can do, don’t bother.
Hannibal by Thomas Harris – This one is not so awful, but also upsetting. I love Hannibal Lecter, I am a big fan of all of the books and movies. Hannibal is a great book, a wonderful read that gives us some solid insight in Hannibal and Clarice. My beef with the ending of this one is a little more complicated. At the end, Hannibal and Clarice run away together. When I read it I slammed it closed and said “oh, come on!” really loudly. I actually like this ending in theory. I think the thought of Hannibal and Clarice running off together at the end of this series is oddly engaging. Problem, then? She wouldn’t do it. Hannibal would, but Thomas Harris spent too much time building up Clarice and her sense of staunch morality for her to blow everything off for a crazy serial killer. It was out of character, too out of character for me to swallow it and for that reason I am hurt and saddened.
So how much do authors owe their readers, if anything? Were these endings always envisioned by these authors or were they just tacked on? Will people like the way my book ends, and more importantly, will I give a crap? I don’t know, but it’s something to think about. I guess I just hope that a terrible ending would be pointed out to me long before publication. Only time will tell.