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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Have You Ever Wished a Story or Piece of Music Would Never End?

Kellan Publishing asked, "How Many Times Have You Read a Book and Wished It Never Ended?"

I thought this an intriguing question. I was eager to jot down a dozen answers--even more--because I assumed it would be easy to do so.

Answering wasn't as easy as I thought. The best authors gift both short stories and novels with realistic characters embroiled in fascinating plots. Many such stories require an ambiguous or even a tragic ending. An ending appropriate to the tale that has gone before. Do we really wish such tales would never end?

Or was Kellan Publishing also asking readers to think of tales that when we reach the last word, we have an urge to flip back to the title page and begin reading the book all over again?

I feel that way about "The Wind in the Willows". I love the animal characters! The plot or really the series of plots don't matter as much to me.

I no sooner lifted the lid of Kellan's "Never-Ending Story" chest just a crack when dozens of questions escaped. Every one of them whispered their need for my attention.



Within just Fiction, we may treasure:
1. Tales, of any length we truly wish would never end; Where reading the last words prompts the impulse to guess what happens next.

2. Tales, where those traditional two words conceal an invitation to flip back to page one and immerse ourselves even more deeply in the author's world. Just because we love the story, in the same way that a child does when they ask that it be read to them over and over again. As adults, perhaps we begin at the beginning looking for hints about motives and plot we missed in our first reading or to take the time to actually read the description we skipped. Or to savor a superbly-written passage for its beauty rather than its role in furthering the story.

3. Tales, where when we reach the last page, we can't help wonder, "what would have happened if there was more?..."

Examples, I'm so glad that everything worked out for such-and-so protagonists but I wanted to hang out with them long enough to:
share their delight in doing what they had always hoped to do--free of former doubts or guilt,
just being together at last,
or unburdened by the daily threat of mortal danger

What fiction, whether books or stories or poems,
has evoked one or more of these urges in you?

Or some entirely different impulse?


Here were my immediate reactions, all chosen quickly and very much subject to change or additional candidates.

Type #1:
C.S. Lewis' "Perelandra" because it is set in an exquisite world, literally a paradise filled with lifeforms I only wish I could experience in the flesh rather than reading about in a book. Once a certain alien presence is conquered, who would not wish to stay there a while longer?

Type #2:
The Princess Bride (because why not?);
Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach (a chance to savor details, mysterious wordings, and above-all sublime beauty somehow evoked with mere words;
The huge collection of fairy tales written by George MacDonald. So many that by the time the reader finishes the last tale, she really does need to begin again with the first one

Type #3:
Alpha Redemption, P.A. Baines, (What would have happened, has the ending been different? If only I could envision it!;
"Of Missing Persons", by Jack Finney. (No! I want "the other version" you didn't write, Jack! What would it have been like?);
Barbara Hambly's fantasy trilogy, Silent Tower, Silicon Mage, Dog Wizard. After suffering so much with our protagonists, BH owes her reader another Dog Wizard chapter in which we have a chance to see those protagonists together and finally free of danger

Type #4:
Here are my choices for fiction works ending exactly where they should, thereby quelling an immediate desire to reread them, or try to guess what happens next:
C.S. Lewis' Narnia;
Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and especially his "Leaf, by Niggle";
The novels of Charles Williams, Susan Cooper and Patricia McKillip. And likely the works of many other authors once I have more time to about this.



Kellen Publishing restricted their question to works of fiction. But what about non-fiction? When you think about it, there's a huge amount of great writing we lump together as non-fiction. Essays, biographies, memoirs or family histories, travel diaries, histories of towns, regions and long-standing traditions, religious tests and tracts; accounts of famous scientific or medical discoveries; museum art catalogs... And don't forget your favorite user's manual! 

#1  Can you think of any non-fiction works where the end prompts you to reread the book, essays or personal account?

Or go back to the beginning and look for all the family-trees, replicas of documents, diagrams, art thumbnails, maps, etc

#2  Or non-fiction where you wish the author had added more details, perhaps another chapter, or an extrapolation of what might happen next?

#3  Or, since the author didn't provide it, you find yourself envisioning whatever you feel is lacking in their work?

What non-fiction works have evoked one or more of these urges in you?


My Choices for Non-Fiction.  I settled on these quickly so I "reserve the right" to add new titles, subtract something, or multiply.

Type #1. I feel this way about nearly every collection of C.S. Lewis' Essays;  

Type #2. Uh... Well... The Book of "Revelation". For the record, I know this is strictly forbidden and that the next chapter isn't actually missing--just delayed;  

Type #3. My choice here is Konrad Z Lorenz' "King Solomon's Ring". I've always suspected KSR is lacking potential chapters, each one an untold account of Many other personal experiences Lorenz shared with animals.



What about Music?   I thought of four urges with which I've been bitten when listening to music.  Did I miss any reaction that you have had to a particular piece of music?

#1  Wishing it would never end;

#2  Needing to sing along even if I don't know the words.

#3  Feeling the tempo prompt me to dance. And giving in--in spite of that abandoned project on the tablet.

#4  Clicking replay just as the last note sounds.

Sorry. I don't have time to find personal examples for music. 

Or Amazon Links for cited titles. (Later!)

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