musings · must reads

escaping the end

Anyone else have a problem with endings, or is it just me?  Endings of books, I mean, TV shows, movies.  I’m only referring to the good ones, of course.  I get so involved in movies sometimes, so invested, so in love with the characters, I want to sit in the theater seat forever.  For a few more hours, anyway.

Also, after I’m suckered yet again into buying a “movie pour” glass of wine before the show at our local theater (because the wise bartenders always tell me 6 oz. is nowhere near enough for a movie, and I must believe them), a glass so wide it requires two hands to carry to my seat, I think I deserve a little extra movie in return.  Right?

Maybe I dread movie endings because I just know I’m going to cry.  I mean really blubber, to the point of distraction as I sideways-glance at whoever’s sitting next to me, searching for any sign that they’ve noticed my sobs and snot.

And I will cry.  At the end of cartoon comedies, even.  At the end of Boss Baby.  No joke. I did cry.

Still, there are many endings I love, endings I sprint toward and dive into.  A few years ago, we were renting a house that turned out to be mold-infested and was making one of our kids sick, me sick.  Even one of the cats was ill.  So, we took action and moved.  Done within a couple of months.  Despite the pretty neighborhood, with lots of side roads for endless walks with my audiobooks, I had absolutely no problem up-and-leaving the Mold House, as we now affectionately call it.

Not sure I should brag about this one, but I also have no problem leaving jobs, as my resume clearly shows.  If a work situation isn’t right, is wreaking havoc on my world outside the office walls, I search for the next avenue and move on.  Of course, there are things to miss when leaving a job – great friends met along the way and so on, but, still, I am not afraid of that kind of ending.  I don’t avoid it.

Endings I avoid appear to be mostly fictional in nature.

The more I love a book, the more I sink into a TV series with awe and wonder, the more likely I am to stop short of the finish line.  Two or three chapters left, just a few episodes left, and I stop tuning in.

Examples?  Um, Doctor Who.  Downton Abbey.  These shows introduce me to worlds I find fascinating.  Quite different from each other, of course, one involving time travel in a blue box toward endless variations on scary monsters (who become less scary as we get to know them, which I love), the other displaying a history our ancestors actually experienced, in a country just a plane ride away, but during a time in which I can barely imagine living.  Without a vote, without rights, without a Nespresso machine.

If a show is good enough, really stellar, I may never make it to the end.  I’ll stay up until 5am watching episode after episode with rapt attention (Calm down, only on Saturdays.  Maybe Fridays.  Sometimes Wednesdays, I suppose.), and when I get close to the finale, I turn it off.  Days, months, years go by before I pick it up again.  Because I will not allow it to end.

There are some books, though, that carry me on such a wild ride, there’s no way I’m letting go.  I race to the final chapter because I MUST see my favorite character triumph, survive, reach the goal, and maybe gloat a little.  And when I reach that end, 300 pages or 500 pages or, dude, 900 pages later (ahem, Ms. Rowling and Mr. King), the ending can be disappointing.

I wonder why that is.  Is it because another boundlessly creative writer didn’t conjure up a good enough resolution?  No, that’s not it.

2 bob pic May 2017

I think it’s because I’m upset at the idea of leaving the world that lies between the covers of that book.  When it’s over, my door into those fascinating and terrifying wonders will slam shut, maybe forever.

I do appreciate it when a writer offers readers a small gimme, an extra thousand words or so telling us about the happy ever-after, maybe about the satisfyingly miserable fate of the bad guy, or bad girl, or bad monster.

Some of my favorite books do nothing of the sort, though, and as such, they’re absolute torture at the end.  After the lovely complex lives of characters flow on for days and months, sometimes years within the pages of a book, the ending can be shockingly abrupt.  Only a few paragraphs to tell me how all those huge issues that warranted an entire novel were tied up with a pretty bow.  That’s it.  The end.  Fin.

Jane Austen is one of those for me.  I can’t get enough of her writing, but I always wish for longer endings.  I want to see Lady Catherine’s extreme discomfort as she greets the newlyweds for the first time.  I want to witness first-hand Willoughby’s regret at the havoc he caused and the happiness he threw away.

I even caved once and tried one of those books that attempted to continue with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy where Austen had left off.  Geez.  I didn’t finish the first chapter.

And now to my latest bout of avoidance, the audiobook I’ve been listening to lately on my way to and from my writing spot.  It has a great balance of humor and humanity mixed into sci-fi, with a perfect sprinkling of references to Star Wars, Star Trek, and other 20th century geek culture.  It’s called I Am Legion (I Am Bob), by Dennis E. Taylor, and it made me laugh out loud more than once, standing alone with my earbuds in the metro station.  A few people might have taken a step or two away from me.  So what?

After days of dreading the ending of Legion(Bob), of tracking my approach to the last chapter of this thoroughly fun read, I finally reached The End a couple days ago, just as I was stepping through the door to my home.

It was an excellent ending.  The last four words perfectly summed up the feel of the entire book, and they made me happy.  Okay, I was choked up a little, no surprise there, but I also smiled for hours.

Still, I’ve missed Bob over the past couple of days, missed the universe in which he lived, with Admiral Ackbar and an endless supply of coffee.  I was seriously bummed to see it all go.  Of course, it wasn’t a perfect universe.  There was mortal danger, loss and sadness, the unavoidable ingredients in any story (and in life, I suppose), but there was also wonder, discovery, and people with names like Calvin, Hobbes, Ernie, Bert, and Homer (doh!).

Imagine my delight when I learned just this morning that Mr. Taylor has already graced the world with a sequel.  I just started listening on the metro ride to my writing spot, so glad to see Bob again.

Turns out, there is no end, yet.

Thanks Mr. Taylor, wherever you are.


A. Katherine Black


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