life’s too short

I know I blather on about things I see and read that resonate with me, but I think this is one of the greatest things I love about fiction; when a story or a character or a setting or a scene or a conversation or even a one-line remark touches you in some way.

It can be something hugely powerful which feels like you’ve been gripped by the throat and you can’t shake it off. Or it can be a warm feeling that wraps around you, makes you feel comfortable and brings a smile to your face.

This leads me to one of my recent reads, which was the latest book in Jayne Ann Krentz’s Arcane Society series. This author is a favourite of mine because of the fabulous dynamic between her heroes and heroines and the masterly (or is that mistressly??) way she crafts a conversation.

In Running Hot, the main protags have a discussion about a romantic suspense novel the heroine is reading. It was the latter part of this that I can’t stop thinking about. Here it is:

“If I want real police work I’ll read newspapers, not a book,” she said.
“Probably a good idea. Let me know how that one ends.”
She turned another page. “I already know how it ends.”
“You read the ending first?”
“I always read the ending before I commit to the whole book.”
He looked at her, baffled. “If you know how it ends, why read the book?”
“I don’t read for the ending. I read for the story.” She looked toward the entrance, watching a cab that had pulled up in front. “Life is too short to waste time on books that end badly.”
“By badly you mean unhappily, right?”
“As far as I’m concerned the two are synonymous.”

The heroine’s logic, convoluted though it might be for some, works for me.

The main reason I read the huge, swirling mass of sub-genres making up romance fiction is because I want a story that progresses, through conflict and challenges, character development, whatever, towards a ‘good’ ending. I’m usually guaranteed this precisely because the book IS a romance.

This doesn’t mean all threads need be wrapped up in a neat and tidy bow, or it can’t be HFN, or it must have a white wedding or commitment ceremony, or finding out how many children the couple have, or knowing they live to a ripe old age before dying a few weeks apart.

It means by the last page of the book that I, as a reader, need to be convinced the relationship between the protags is going to work (in some way, shape or form).

I want to be satisfied and, yes dammit, I want my happy ending!

So how about you? Is “Life is too short to waste time on books that end badly”? Because I’m seriously wondering whether I should steal borrow this as a motto for my blog. *g*

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
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19 Responses to life’s too short

  1. Kristie (J) says:

    I agree. With 90% of the books I read, I read the end before I get there. My sisters can’t understand this and wonder why I do it. It’s become a bad habit I can’t break anymore. But then they ask if it doesn’t ruin the book for me and my answer is always no because even though I know the end – I still need to know the journey they take to get there.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I just have to disagree with you Sissy. It just spoils all of the wonder of the storyline. Why read a book when you know who did it, who he or she is going to end up with etc and don’t give me that blather about the “journey” (sorry Kristie – no not you Sissy!) the language and sequence of events will not overcome the knowledge of the conclusion.I’ve never been able to understand why you do that… even sitting up in your cot as a little one you would look at the back page??? It always baffled me.It must be from your father’s side of the family…

  3. Jenre says:

    Years ago, not long after I’d had eldest son (omg that was 10 years ago!) I read Charlotte Grey by Sebastian Faulks. When I got to the end, I was so affected by the plight of the jewish boys that I cried for about 2 hours and consequently was weepy and unhappy for several days afterwards.After that point I vowed I would never again read a book which didn’t have a happy ending – which, let’s face it is the majority of ‘literary’ fiction. I just didn’t want to put myself in that position again. So I read mysteries or romance because I get that guaranteed resolution and it’s always satisfying and happy.I DON’T read the end first though – I like to be surprised, especially with mysteries and, let’s face it, we all know how a romance is going to end. I do have a friend who does and she says it’s for the same reason, ie. she hates not knowing whether the book ends well.Is that your ‘hairy’ brother commentating on your blog, Kris?

  4. Kris says:

    Kristie, I totally understand the ‘bad habit’ thing. Reading the ending is something I have a tendency to do in print fiction, which is, to be totally honest, one of the reasons why I like e-fiction so much because it is not as easy for me to flick back and forth as it is for me to do in hard copy. I don’t do it all the time and I don’t necessarily read the end first, but I might flick to it when I’m part of the way into a book.Like you with your sisters, it’s pretty obvious that my Mumma doesn’t understand it either. 🙂

  5. Kris says:

    Just because you don’t understand it or disagree with it there is no need to be rude, Mumma. :)Kristie is absolutely right; even knowing the ending you can still share the story to that ending. Say for example it’s a mystery and the protags are falling in love with many obstacles before them including catching the bad guy, blah, blah. Reading the ending, you might know that they survive in the end, but you might not always know who the baddie is, how they catch him, when they decide their in love, etc, etc. You CAN still enjoy the journey.*sigh* Stop blaming Dad for stuff that annoys you about me. You know he does exactly the same about you. *snort*

  6. Kris says:

    It’s the Mumma, Jen. Sissy is a family nickname created by the bearded one though; a mix of Kristy and Sister.Oh, the unhappy book experience. I totally sympathise. I don’t know about you, but when I read something like this it always seems to hit me harder than when I watch it. I think it’s using your own imagination to paint the landscape of a book whereas with film all the visuals are given to you. Does that make sense??I don’t always read the end first. I tend to do it more with crime/ mystery, thriller type print fiction than anything else. One of the reasons is to see if I have guessed who done it (hopeless am I, but quite often right *she says modestly*) and the other reason is to see if I have guessed who done it. *g*The first relates to the ‘oooh, I bet he did it’ experience and the second to the ‘for fuck’s sake that’s so friggin obvious’ response. Needless to say, the latter goes straight on the secondhand book pile.

  7. Tam says:

    Yep. Life is depressing enough, I don’t need to read and be depressed. I agree it doesn’t have to be hearts and rainbows happy, but I don’t want it to end with one of the protags crying over a casket or becoming an alcoholic and offing themselves in a seedy hotel room because they are heartbroken. Ick. Not fun. I read the ending LOTS of times. Its not the ending that counts for me, its the process to that ending that is more interesting. I guess I kind of judge the author on how well they lead the readers to the ending. I still want to see what process the protags use to get to the end of the book. I like mysteries so that counts for finding out who the bad guy is as well as just for relationship issues in romance type books.

  8. Jenre says:

    when I read something like this it always seems to hit me harder than when I watch itYes, that’s certainly true for me too. I think it’s because we are told the emotions of the characters rather than having to interpret how they feel through their facial expressions. Although I have to admit that bit from Sophie’s Choice gets me every time. Meryl Streep is such a good actress.

  9. Tracy says:

    I want the happy ending too but it means so much more when I read about how they got there before I find out the ending. Therefore no reading the end first.

  10. Kris says:

    Definitely Not fun, Tam. I’ve read that kind of thing in a couple of epilogues and have been torn between throwing the book across the room and hunting down the author to finger jab them in the chest demanding to know what the hell they were thinking. I reckon this more than anything is a reason for reading the end of a book, don’t you?? It’s good to see that Kristie and I are not alone. 🙂 It’s also interesting to see that we have similar reasons as to why it doesn’t put us off from reading the remainder of the story and discovering the whys, hows and whens of a book.

  11. Kris says:

    Jen, I’m trying to think about the last time that I cried in a film. I’m the kind of gal who cries buckets when watching documentaries or news reports etc, but film… The only one I can think of is when I went to see Pan’s Labyrinth. I just sat there at the end of that movie with tears rolling down my cheeks. It’s still one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

  12. Kris says:

    Willpower. Tracy has it. *g*These responses are really interesting because all of us want/prefer the happy, good, whatever ending. It’s just the way we get there, which is different.

  13. Kris says:

    Okay another question for you all – do you buy books because you know it’s going to end well or do you assume because it’s in the romance genre that it will?? I admit to browsing shelves at stores, picking out a book, giving it a quick ‘dip’ as well as a glance at the end to see if it will interest me, and then buying a book. What about you??

  14. Jenre says:

    The last film I cried at and I mean really cried was Brokeback Mountain.I sobbed all the way from him getting the postcard right through the wardrobe thing and onto the end. I was a wreck.

  15. Jenre says:

    Oops, didn’t see the last question.I buy romance assuming it has a happy ending. I don’t read the last few pages to make sure. Actually, it’s been so long since I bought a paper book from a shop other than a virtual one, I can’t actually remember what I do now. I’m sure I didn’t used to look at the ending as I like surprises – as long as they are good ones.

  16. Tam says:

    Well, I ASSUME romance has a happy ending but if I’m buying “real” books that I can touch, oh yeah, I skim through it, check out the ending, read a half page or two here and there to see if I like the style. Hey, its a lot of money, I don’t want to waste it. 🙂 If its a book by an author I know and I’m pretty sure how it ends, then no, grab and pay, but for new stuff definitely. Oh and I’m a total sap, I bawl at everything, animated movies, well, not comedies usually. LOL Books too sometimes. But it doesn’t take much to choke me up and there sits my hard-hearted child looking at me like I’m nuts because I’m crying at a cartoon. Sigh. Maybe I just don’t read sad books but the last time I got choked up reading was for Mexican Heat. A few scenes in the hospital had be on the verge. A good sign I guess for an author to evoke a strong reaction. Most romances don’t make me cry (unless its from the sadness of wasting my money on a clunker). James Herriot stories? I’m either laughing my ass off or bawling my eyes out.

  17. Ozakie says:

    Kris,U know when I read this post, I was thinking of that scene in When Harry Met Sally when he says he always read the ending of books first bc if he dies he knows how it ends LOL too funny.I think I may have skimmed 2 or 3 times to the end but mostly I just wait bc I want to read the journey and arc of the story..Im with Jenre on Brokeback Mountain. I was at wreck during the whole movie. I actually read the short story years before it was even made to the movie in my dorm room and I was bawling then. It still the only short story EVER that has made me had the visceral emotional reaction..Hmm. I did cry reading and watching The Notebook. I always also cried reading and watching The Bridges of Madison County too (When Meryl has her hand on the doorknow, I ALWAYS want her to jump out of the truck. Can u imagine being married but your SOUL MATE is about to drive off in the vehicle in front of you in traffic??!) . I think Im a sucker for love that is either unrequited or surpasses all odds

  18. Kris says:

    So basically we’re all sappy romantics, who want all of the stories to end with a happy-at-that-moment-in-time. And out of us all it’s a toss up between Tam and Ozakie as to who wins the ‘sucker for love or touch feely moments’ award. *g*

  19. Tam says:

    Ah, but because I’m a sap I avoid movies like Brokeback, The Notebook, etc. like the plague. I refuse to see movies that are depressing and I know will make me cry. Beauty and the Beast is enough. LOL

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