Spoiler Alert !!!

Baby ZuZu
Baby ZuZu

Like the little kitten (ZuZu) in A Berkshire Tale, I do so love happy endings! This is very hard to reconcile with my love of biographies. There seems to be one glaring similarity throughout almost every biography I’ve read – the main character dies in the end. At least with an autobiography, you have a better chance for a lower casualty rate, but in a biography, the main character usually has “left the building” by the last page.

 

So, what to do? What to do? I mulled over this conundrum for quite some time and feel I’ve reached  a solution I can live with – one that doesn’t involve never reading a biography, ever again. Let me digress for a moment on thoughts of endings and the inevitability of death……..

Our Pastor, Weldon,  is a kindly man. I sometimes find it necessary to torture him and he bears it quite well. (Given his profession, he has a very forgiving nature.) One day we were discussing mystery books. (I am currently editing my own mystery book, Last Train to Kingston. Because I am an obsessive-compulsive editor, this means it may never get to the publishers, but I am digressing in the midst of my own digression. Sorry.)

I told him I sometimes skip to the end of a mystery I’m reading. He was appalled. “I could never do that! It would ruin the whole thing for me!” he asserted.  (Different strokes for different folks.)

I further explained that I tend to become very invested in the characters within the books I’m reading, and sometimes I need to be assured they will make it to the end of said book. (A murder mystery being at the mercy, or lack thereof, of an author’s vivid and sometimes sadistic  imagination.) So, midway through a book, I usually can be found perusing the final pages, reassuring myself that my own favorite “Darlings’ haven’t been killed off.

Now, the following week, Weldon informed Charley and me that the church deacons were arranging for us to be presented with a cake after Sunday Service in thanks for the work we had done on the church directory. I told him “Absolutely not!”  My reason being that people had already thanked us profusely and there were many others in our congregation who worked tirelessly, day after day, year after year. They were much more deserving of a cake. We had completed one project and enjoyed doing it. But, unfortunately, Weldon insisted.

I am not easily dissuaded, so, I warned him, again, not to go forward with the cake presentation plan. He still maintained it was the right thing to do. I told him if there were any signs of cake or other decorated baked goods after Sunday’s Service, I would reveal  the ending of the latest Louise Penny Mystery to him. (We both love her series and I’m always two books ahead of him.) He was duly shocked and asked Charley if I would actually carry through with my heinous threat. Charley, my extremely patient husband, sagely advised him, “I wouldn’t test her if I were you.”

Weldon announced at the deacon’s meeting that week there would be no cake for the Sweeneys on Sunday. He explained,”Clare is blackmailing me”. They nodded sympathetically and wisely acquiesced and that was the end of that.

Which reminds me of another “Happy Ending” story:

A few years back,  I unwillingly was admitted into the hospital to have my gall bladder removed. I was told it would be a simple laparoscopic, out-patient operation and I’d be released in a few hours. When I  awoke from the anesthesia, I found I’d been brought to a ward and admitted for overnight observation. I was not a happy camper and hence, informed the now-cowering  nurses  I wouldn’t be staying. I reiterated  this a few times until Charley finally arrived with my clothes. I told him to bring our car around to the front door. The surgeon was summoned to try and convince me to stay. As I pulled off the last of the tubes running from various parts of my body to blipping thingamajigs, I tersely informed him that, “People die in hospitals.”   (Even more often than they do in Biographies!. I’ve read the statistics!).  I  put on my coat, walked down four flights of stairs and left.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Solution:

I decided to reread Savage Beauty, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s biography. I never finished it the first time  SPOILER ALERT!  when the sadder parts started to be unveiled. And that’s when I was struck with one of those “Ah Hah!” Moments. I decided to read it this time from the last chapter to the first.  From back to front. That way I’ll know, soon after starting the book,  SPOILER ALERT!  that she  suffered from acute depression, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, alienated her friends and family, had a suicide pact with her husband, and eventually died in the end. This will enable me to get it all behind me, allowing me to work my way to the happier times of her childhood. Brilliant!

I fully intend to read every biography from now on,  back to front. It’s going to save me a lot of angst and there’ll always be a happy ending  beginning to look forward to.

MORE SPOILER ALERTS!!!!!!!

                                                                    THE END   (Literally!)

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66 thoughts on “Spoiler Alert !!!

    1. Lucinda, 3 biographies! I am going to have to put those on my reading list for this summer. Hopefully you weren’t attached to any of the dead “Darlings” in your novels. I’m going to have to find out. (Winter is for writing, Spring for editing, and I save the Summer for reading.)

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  1. Hilarious update, Clare! I’m sure your pastor enjoys your conversations. I can see how it would work to read from end to beginning – have you heard of writing the story that way? Certain people advise it so as to truly tighten the prose. I’m too pedantic for either, I’m afraid, and also am a bit in the pastor’s camp with regards not wanting to know the end till I get there. But I admire your creative solution!!

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    1. Yvette, Our pastor has found me to be his own conundrum and enjoys me in spite of it all. The church folk just seem to take me in stride and know Charley’s the religious one – I’m just along for the ride. I never heard of writing backwards. That would be a disaster for me as I’m a “Pantser”. I write by the seat of my pants and don’t know where I’ll end up. Think about giving a backwards speech to the Toastmasters? Yikes!

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    1. I am really relieved you’re still with us. Except for Charley’s experiences with the cancer studies at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, all of my dealings with hospitals here in my home state have resulted in people not walking out. So, I tend to avoid them like the Plague. No one would survive the Plague if they lived here in RI! And I am a bit impatient with incompetence, so it’s best if …”never the twain shall meet” and I stay my distance. Plus – as Frankinstein’s monster declared, “I’m alive!” So, good I didn’t stay. (I intimidate everyone. Wait! I am like Frankenstein’s monster!)

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  2. LOL! Spoiler Alert! I’m going to die. It may take me a while, but I’m going to croak in the kicked bucket while pushing up daisies when taking a dirt nap. It’ll hopefully still be a happy ending because my adventure after that could be even greater.

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  3. I wasn’t shocked. If I am reading a suspenseful book, I read the ending. Otherwise I would stay awake and read until it was done. I also don’t like getting attached to someone who croaks. Like you say, with a biography, you can be assured that they die. As for the cake, why didn’t they do it in appreciation of EVERYONE who helped out in anyway in the past year. Hate to lose a cake. You know…chocolate, icing, all things good.

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    1. We had taken on a long-term task that nobody else wanted to do. The pastor was new and needed a directory to provide him with up-to-date info on his congregation. Everyone was grateful that we took on the project and told us so many times. But then they wanted to have a special commemoration for us and I had to put a stop to it. They do recognize people on a regular basis, but I prefer to just get a thanks and then fade into the background. We were relatively new to the Church and in the year it took us to get the project done, we met with everyone in the Congregation and it was fun for us, too.I felt that we’d been given enough reward. (It’s my birthday tomorrow and I think Charley’s going to make me an angel food cake with chocolate icing. My very favorite! I’ll send you a piece!)

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      1. Yes. You know, I am rereading a Louise Penny mystery right now, “Still Life”. It was the first of the series and I know who did it. It’s so interesting to read and watch how the writer sets up clues in a mystery.I think it will help me with my own edit of my mystery book.

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  4. I so enjoyed this post! I never peek at the end of a book but a friend always does. She says if she is going to invest her emotions in a group of characters and situaitons she wants to know her investment won’t be wasted. I kind of get where she’s coming from but…
    Oh, do read Lucinda’s books. I’d call them autobiographies rather than biographies but whatever, they are good reading.

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    1. I peeked at my birthday presents and No More Mulberries is in with Andy Smart’s book. Yay for me! I’ve made a list of bloggers’ books I want to get and I’ll add Lucinda’s “autobiographies”. I already have a couple of Russ Towne’s children’s books which are getting a bit worn. And there are so many more. I read during the summer months and I’ll make sure I do Amazon reviews, too. Thanks, Mary.

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  5. A very entertaining post Clare! I’m concerned about your back to front reading though. Like your pastor, I would be horrified about reading the last page first. Biographies and autobiographies are a little different, granted.
    As for cake – it’s a brave woman who passes it up : )

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    1. I’m re-reading Still Life. Louise Penny’s first mystery. It’s a good method to examine how a writer sets up the clues for a mystery. I’m really learning a lot. And I already know who dunnit! I promise never to tell you an ending! But I may give you a few clues.

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      1. Yes I know what you mean. Being in a book club used to help me although I no longer belong. Books were chosen by others (every one had a turn) and one had to read them in order to join the discussion. The other thing is, on occasions when a book doesn’t live up to my expectations, I find comparing it with better writing helps me to avoid its pitfalls.

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  6. Brilliant! This reminded me of my mother. She loved mysteries and would often read the last chapter first. She said, by doing that, she could watch for the clues as she made her way through the story. I thought it was crazy, but I’m finding out that it’s not that uncommon. I have never heard of reading biographies that way though.

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    1. Yes! I know that many of my kindred spirits understand why it is not such a bad thing. I also think reading a mystery twice is a great idea for mystery writers, The second time around, you can note the clues and follow the killer all the way through to the gruesome end. Thanks

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      1. Oh yes, I agree. I haven’t read a book in eons. When I was employed, all I did was read and document so I grew weary of it. I am surprised I read and write blogs. Perhaps, because they are shorter and get to the point much quicker.

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    1. Mitch – Dead Parrot and the Penguin on the TV are my favorites bits, although I know most all of the skits by heart and walk around singing the lumberjack song at odd hours of the night. Yikes! Yours is definitely one of the biographies I will read in proper order. Clare

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  7. Clare…first, I love Monty Python…and this really made me laugh…but then, you do, too! I actually think you’d love my husband, Doug, who has a really wicked sense of humor as well. He’d never present you with a cake…he’d just tell you that you take the cake…ba ba bum!

    Now, I am beginning to wonder if you need to switch from biographies and mysteries to literary fiction. Death would not be an issue very often…ennui, marital conflict, psychological distress, depression, insane wives who set fires in the attic, narcisscistic neighbors, sadistic bosses, bratty children, wrath and grapes, rage and fury….but not guaranteed death. Also, almost all of them don’t end at the end…in fact they leave you hanging and wondering what really will happened after the ending…and the reader can always choose to imagine it is always a happy one! Just a thought.

    Ah…wait…
    another one….Perhaps reincarnation could be way to rewrite these endings in a happy way:

    Robert Frost: Took the Other Road….and traveled on

    Katherine Hepburn – connected with Shirley McClain and Quess Where They Went to Dinner?

    Tennessee Williams – borrowed a life from the Cat and got her off the roof

    Oscar Wilde – adopts a fictitious personality and becomes Ernest

    Andrew Jackson – evolves into a singer and writes “The Battle of New Orleans”

    Just a few random thoughts…Wishing you a happy week with a happy ending!

    Smiles…Jo

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    1. Jo, You are, of course, right. I should jump genres and the reincarnation ending thing is right up my Buddha alley. I think I should definitely read any books you write because I love the way your mind works. And yes, again, a “wicked sense of humor” is the highest compliment you can give a person and what we should all look for in a friend ( I left out the “r” and that just came out as “fiend” – thank you spell-check!) My favorite shows, back in the day, were MP’s Flying Circus and the Muppets. Hoping your week is a really good one, too. I’ll visit soon. Clare

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    1. Lynn, I have so many bad facets to my personality and I treasure them all. Yes, I will do whatever it takes and that includes blackmail. I may stop at murder, but the verdict is still out on that one????? You have nothing to be worried about. You’re in witness protection (that’s where most of my friends end up.)

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    1. Yes, there are those people who think it’s terrible to read the ending of a mystery before you actually get to that ending. These poor people have only themselves to blame when they become the victim of a ruthless character such as myself. (I did have comments about the blackmail from some of my friends who were aghast that not even a pastor would be exempt from my evil ways. C’est la vie! I say!)

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