The Ending Is Hard

When I was in elementary school, one night mom was going over my composition homework. She asked me to rewrite the ending and then gave me an analogy to bad ending of a story, “It is like when you are eating a pack of roasted peanuts,” She said, “you’ve enjoyed the entire pack, they are delicious, but then comes this last one, and it is bitter!” I remembered her frowning expression then, she continued, “The bad taste remains in your mouth for a long while and how you would remember that pack of peanuts? You forget all the delicious ones, but you will never forget the bitterness of the last and only one. The same thing goes with stories.”

Now I did a quick mental check in my head and realized that no book with a bad ending has made it to my “favorite” shelf. All my favorite books either had a great ending or at least a non-intrusive ending that didn’t interfere with its greatness through out the book.

Gui had a theory that she dislikes all books end with death, because it shows the author’s helplessness at the end. He/She doesn’t know what to do with the main character, so death is the easiest way out. It’s power abuse. J I sort of agree with her.

John Irving (one of my all time favorite authors) said that before he started writing a story, he always had an ending in mind. If he didn’t know how it would end, he wouldn’t start writing at all.

So I finished the remaining 200 pages of Middlesex last night. I was slightly disappointed. The transformation of our main character from Calliope to Callie didn’t live up to the expectation the book has built up to this point. The author seemed to be more interested in the history of Cal’s family than Cal’s own transformation. I wonder if it is because the family history and the local color in Detroit were based on author’s experience, while the transformation was not. The writing seemed rushed, noncommittal, and thin. The narrator seemed bored and absentminded, as if he would much rather be a main character somewhere else. I also wish he had spent more time explaining the romance between Cal and Julie in Berlin. Or maybe he wants to keep that to another book?

It did however raise an interesting question, what makes us male versus female. When Cal was struggling to come to terms with his own condition in, of all places, San Francisco, he met another Hermaphrodite Zora. She said to him, “Sex is genetic, but Gender is social.” How we were brought up, how we feel, how we react to certain situations, our psychology, and many more behaviors were formed AFTER we were born. But sexual desires and the gender we are attracted to are determined BEFORE we were born. I think that’s interesting.

The ending chapters were trying to tidy up all the lose ends. Again, it seemed rushed, but not a bad ending all in all. It could have been a GREAT book though. As it is now, it is a good book. 🙂

2 thoughts on “The Ending Is Hard

  1. A slight misquote: Gui doesn’t dislike ALL books with death endings. 🙂 Only when it’s obvious that the author is using the death as a quick way to resolve all the issues in the story, or forcing a death to prove some stupid point. “A Prayer for Owen Meany” is an example for an acceptable death, perhaps because the reader can see this death coming way before the end. That’s consistent with his comment about knowing the ending before writing the book….

  2. Haha, the difference between fiction and reality lies in exaggeration. 😉

    Thanks for the correction! Owen Meany did come cross my mind when i wrote this. But i decided to put it off otherwise i would need to rename this article “What’s So Great about John Irving?”

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