Friday, February 1, 2013

Flannery Fridays QOTW:The Offensiveness of Pat Endings

I just thought this was pretty

There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. The reader of today looks for this motion, and rightly so, but what he has forgotten is the cost of it. His sense of evil is diluted or lacking altogether, and so he has forgotten the price of restoration. When he reads a novel, he wants either his sense tormented or his spirits raised. He wants to be transported, instantly, either to mock damnation or a mock innocence.”

It's a terrible event to experience disregard for the characters in a novel. It's an even worse one when this novel is considered one of the best of the 20th century. Yet this is exactly what happened to me as I progressed through reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude.  But perhaps disregard is exactly what Garcia wants me to feel, since the Buendia family is the root cause of their own problems. They are quite a self-centered family, and only vaguely self-aware. There are no epiphanies of lasting value in the book.

But maybe that's exactly the purpose of the story: to mirror what happens to us should we reduce our existence to nothing but what we want to do or be. The part of me that wants uplifting is quite uncomfortable with a story that doesn't have a happy ending. I want resolution and there is none. I want one of the characters to rise up and say, "Enough with this nonsense!" But none do. I want to know that everything turns out good at the end. But Marquez doesn't let me get away with that. He doesn't make me comfortable. That's his genius, I think.

I've been struggling with one of my own stories off and on for the past few years. It's an uncomfortable tale of pedophilia (is there ever a comfortable one on that topic?) I have to sit in the mind of the sexual predator in order to tell my story, as well as that of other characters in it. It's a disgusting place; exceptionally disconcerting. I also have to beware that in the telling of the story that I also don't cross the line into borderline pornography or gratuitous sexual scenes. But I also cannot refrain from being daring, either. Perhaps O'Connors quote on constraints of writing v. the constraints of the Church is more fitting here:

"The limitations that any writer imposes on his work will grow out of the necessities that lie in the material itself, and these will generally be more rigorous than any that religion could impose." --The Church and The Fiction Writer, America Magazine, 1957  

So it's not a question of whether or not it will offend, but rather, does what I write in telling my story take away from it and become gratuitous or pornographic or does it augment the tale? No Monsignor is looking over my shoulder but the limitations of my craft sure have a loud voice.

So what would have happened if one of the Buendia family had had an epiphany and stopped the train wreck? An event such as that would not have been true to the story, and we would have wound up with a novel that is "lesser than" what it is. And that would be very offensive.