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?
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!)