Thursday, January 14, 2010

Non-endings 2

Over here, Jon Hotten responds to the Non-endings post about his book The Years of the Locust. It is reasonable to say that Tim Anderson got life without parole because the Judge insisted on keeping his narrative within narrow limits for the purposes of the trial. When you're aware of the wider story, this seems terribly harsh. But who is to say that the Judge was wrong? Stretching the narrative would have been arbitrary too - you could, after all, start the story with Rick Parker's great-great-grandparents if you wanted.

But Anderson is in a real prison. Jon and I agreed that the arbitrary nature of narratives is a diverting philosophical game... unless the length of your prison term depends on it.

7 comments:

Gaw said...

Slightly off-topic but don't you think the non-satisfactory ending is as much of a hackneyed literary trope as 'they all lived happy ever after'? It's not necessarily more life-like either. As you suggest, endings can be found all over the place.

Brit said...

I suppose it depends on how you do it. If endings are hackneyed and non-endings are hackneyed that doesn't leave us with much, does it?

Gaw said...

It leaves us in the literary borough of hackney (I told you I like a bad pun).

But perhaps my point is more that one shouldn't disparage 'happy ever after' as an unrealistic bourgeois conceit (not that you did). It may be as realistic (or not) as 'undetermined ever after', which has attained something of an undeserved aura of authenticity. A parallel point to yours?

Brit said...

No I agree - just because endings are arbitrary, it doesn't make them invalid. Who, for example, would want Pride & Prejudice or Jane Eyre to carry on until the married couples get fat and old and bored?

martpol said...

Brit, on your earlier post:

I keep meaning to read The Road but I heard it described as "the bleakest novel of the decade"

It is a stunning and beautiful book, and bleak - but what's strange is the number of people who refer to its ending as "ultimately uplifting" and the like. I didn't find that at all. Which perhaps shows that endings, as well as being arbitrary, also divide readers as to what even happened.

The over-arching narrative of The Road is so vast - humanity, apocalypse, existence itself - that McCarthy has to restrict it to the narrowest of all stories, two people walking. When that narrative is exhausted, it ends because it has to.

malty said...

As we have endings, some peacefull (Douglas Bader, game of golf, good dinner, bed, bingo!) or some not, (Onykel Adolf, "I do," "you rotted sod Albert", crunch, bang, auf wiedersehen, pet,) then so should books and movies. Or at least satisfactory conclusions. Unlike the most pretentious movie in the history of celluloid, Alphaville.

Now there's a none ending conclusion, sort of well unfinished.

Tschuss.

The Old Batsman said...

On the subject of the judge, it's one of those interesting ones. He might have been right. Another judge could have started in an entirely different place, and - by virtue of being a judge - also be right. It's a bit like the already legendary Umpire Decision Review System in cricket, in which a batsman can be both out and not out to exactly the same ball.