Friday, February 16, 2018

Uncertain Endings

Three times lately I've read mysteries where the ending is up to my imagination. How everything turns out is entirely up to me.

The three books have one thing in common. I will never buy another book from these authors.

Seriously. Fuzzy endings are to be expected in most of The New Yorker short stories and a great many literary books. But when they occur in mysteries I feel betrayed. I don't think I'm unusual in this reaction. We're living in really uncertain times. It's as though we are required to realign our thinking on a daily basis.

Coping with the Orwellian nightmare thrust on us by politicians is bad enough, but we can't open the paper or click on our websites without another icon biting the dust.

I believe so many of the best-sellers right are mysteries because--usually--we know who the good guys are and blessedly, they know who the bad guys are. Villains are brought to justice. The world is aching for stories that draw a line between good and evil.

Recently a friend of mine--another writer--whose father had left at an early age said during an acceptance speech for an award that he learned what men were supposed to be like by watching old westerns when he was a little kid. He had no other role models.

Simplistic? Sentimental? Probably, but he could have done a lot worse. I adored the old Gunsmoke series. And how about the lovable bumbling Columbo who had an uncanny ability to smoke out evil-doers?

I realize that I'm confessing to a broad streak of immaturity, but I insist on proper endings. No one has to tell me the world exists in broad strokes of gray. I can put up with an unhappy ending if I must, but please, end the story.

Fairy tale touches still happen. People still do wonderful things. I read a newspaper article last week about a UPS driver who walked eleven miles to work every day. He was too ashamed to tell anyone he couldn't afford a vehicle. When his co-workers found out about it, they secretly started a fund to buy him a car. The unveiling and his expression of deep gratitude was posted all over the web.

People still care and cry and feel. My idea of an ideal ending was that of the men's snowboard competition at the Olympics and Shaun White's extraordinary display of emotion. For an instant we were allowed to view what was at stake internally after physically dedicating one's life to performing in a single event. For an instant we could participate in his joy and his embrasure of people who had made it all possible.

And this is the end of this post. In case you're wondering how it's all going to turn out in the long run, I'll be back in two weeks.


Marianne Wheelaghan said...

I agree with you, Charlotte. I want an ending. It doesn't have to be all neatly tied up but there needs to be some kind of conclusion, no matter how loose. It's the nature of story writing to have a beginning, middle and end. You can play about with the order of the elements but not the elements themselves. For me this is especially so in a mystery or crime novel. I want to see justice done. End of.

Irene Bennett Brown said...

Loved this post Charlotte. And agreed to the end.

Sybil Johnson said...

Oh, yes, I must have an ending, especially in a mystery.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Sybil, Irene and Marianne--nice to know there's so much agreement on this. Someone once said New Yorker short stories have a beginning, a middle, and a middle.