Endings by Karen Lord

Tue 30 Nov 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | 8 Comments | Posted by: Author

Endings by Karen Lord

I was at a teahouse last Tuesday, chatting with a fellow Bajan author and feeling very literary and cultured (which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, especially the tea). We were debating the age-old question of literary versus genre or, more accurately, the perception of what may be defined as literary or genre. This post is not about that debate. It’s about an interesting tangent that came about as we discovered a mutual dislike for a particular staple of science fiction and fantasy—the multivolume opus.

I’m not talking about the trilogy. The five volume epic also gets a pass from me. I’m not at all disapproving of completed novels in a linked arc of however many books the author can produce and the readers may desire. I mean those books, those doorstopper-thick books, those finely detailed, intricately plotted and often even well-written books that take you through 1027 pages and leave you hanging for next year’s sequel … again and again over the course of several years.

I’m sorry. I can’t risk it. I’m no longer a teenager gifted with long, slow summer vacations and delusions of immortality. I will wait till you have finished the story before I pick up even the first volume.

This goes double for television. I’m not hanging around week after week, hoping for some tiny bit of story resolution. We both know how it’s going to end: one thread tied off neatly, two formerly completed threads frayed, and an entire new seam unravelled to make sure I have to tune in next week. But I might be busy next week, and the weeks after that. That means I’ll have to catch up on five more episodes before I can begin to understand what’s happening in the newest episode—at which stage I will drop the show entirely and make vague promises to buy the DVD (or, which is more likely the case, take the instant gratification of a quick summary and some viewer reactions from a wiki or forum).

I know it’s my own peculiar quirk and it certainly needn’t be anyone else’s. I would not judge any writer’s creative choices, and I’m not sneering at the reader or viewer who likes that kind of approach. I too once looked forward to each new instalment in a long, slow, twisty tale with anticipation and delight. Now I’m finding solace in movies without sequels, stand-alone novels, short stories and miniseries, which distil experience to such brevity and intensity that what takes hours or minutes to read or view will take days and months to ponder and discuss. I’ve exchanged the thrill of a possible future for the bittersweet joy of farewell to worlds and characters I will never see again save in memory and retelling.

Comments

8 Responses to “Endings by Karen Lord”

  1. Doug Smith on December 1st, 2010 6:55 am

    Agreed, Karen. I called the problem one of ‘story or soap opera?’ in a recent blog post:

    http://www.smithorbit.com/journal/2010/11/11/story-or-soap-opera.html

    Endings, as you say, are bittersweet, but they provide a necessary frame to the story.

  2. Karen Lord on December 1st, 2010 2:59 pm

    Soap opera is exactly the word! Do you find there’s even more of it these days than previously, and is that part of why we’re getting tired of it? Or am I having rose-tinted nostalgia for a past that never was?

  3. Doug Smith on December 1st, 2010 4:21 pm

    It sure seems like they’re everywhere nowadays, doesn’t it. I imagine that some of the publishing decisions may be economic, but there are also readers who just enjoy the immersion experience and don’t want the ride to end …

    (They always want the ellipse).

  4. Frostling on December 2nd, 2010 1:42 pm

    I feel exactly the same. I have discovered that it can be quite difficult for me to choose a new book because no matter the genre, a great number of them belong to real sagas. I find this too demanding, both money and time-wise. This is why I prefer short stories anthologies. They offer plenty to read, at my own pace. I have been buying them for a decade now, but according to the media, they are not popular…

  5. Karen Lord on December 2nd, 2010 4:00 pm

    @Frostling

    I’m always suspicious when it’s the media telling me what’s popular!

  6. Gavin on December 2nd, 2010 4:10 pm

    I love stand alone novels and series although I don’t have the stamina right now to read many of the latter.

    Years ago at the bookshop we worked at I drove Kelly nuts by telling her I only read the last in each series and used Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars as the example.

  7. Doug Smith on December 2nd, 2010 4:56 pm

    Love the short story anthologies as well, Frostling.

    Frankly, I love all lengths so long as there’s a final page. Though the longer the work, the more time it’ll take. That’s a turnoff unless the quality is proportional to the length.

  8. The Key, 3 December, 2010 | on December 4th, 2010 10:45 am

    […] Endings Karen Lord Small Beer Press — Not a Journal In praise of ended works: I’ve exchanged the thrill of a possible future for the bittersweet joy of farewell to worlds and characters I will never see again save in memory and retelling. […]

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