Monday, May 31, 2010

Ariel's problem

My daughter Ariel has a problem. She doesn’t think it’s a problem. I do. Now it’s not your typical problem, but it’s the kind of problem that drives a writer like me absolutely batty. She reads the end of books before the beginning. This is utter sacrilege.

She’ll come home with a stack of books from the library. Then she’ll be lying on the couch, reading the first chapter or two and then she reads the last couple of chapters. Imagine me, pulling out my hair. “Ariel, why do you do that?”

Ariel: I have to see if the book’s worth reading.

Me: What?!

Ariel: I want to know if the main character’s going to end up with the guy. Because if she’s not, then I’m not wasting my time with this novel.

Me (I’m beginning to twitch): I understand feeling ripped by the occasional novel, but the author spend months, probably years crafting that book and to skip all the tension building to get to the’re ruining the author’s work.

Ar (eyebrows raised): I’ll read it if it’s good. Besides I hate it when some author pulls a deus ex machina. (Deus ex machina is Latin meaning “god from a machine.” It’s when a writer throws on an ending to tie up the story that the rest of the novel doesn’t justify.)

Me: I totally understand. But that’s the risk you take when begin a novel. You have to give the author a certain amount of trust.

Ar: I’ve gotten burned too many times.

Now the fact that Ariel reads the ending of books is a bad situation. But there is a worse one—one that has played out many times in our house. Imagine Ariel is sitting at my computer with a document open. I lean over to see what she’s doing.

Me: Oh, you’re reading my novel.

Ar: Uh, huh.

Me (looking closer): You’re on chapter twenty-nine.

Ar: Yep.

Me (turning purple): You’re reading the end of my novel before...(I sputter here unable to find the necessary words)’ve read the whole thing.

Ar: Yeah.

Me: I hate, hate, hate that.

Ar (giving me her dimply smile and twinkly eyes): You should password protect your documents.

Me: Like that’ll work. (When Ar was little, I used to password protect my computer as a game for her to try and crack. It’s never taken her more than a day to hack my system.) I know I could come up with an unbreakable code, but then I’d forget it. Maybe I need to put down the “parental foot,” but it’s become sort of a game between the two of us. And I love games.


  1. Another problem of Ariel's is that the book is only worth reading if the main character ends up with the guy.

    What if the book is about a guy!? Sheesh!

  2. That's funny. I might start doing that, if I get disappointed too many times. Actually, I agree with you that that's the worst form of cheating. Reading the end out of context, you miss the emotional impact you'd get after reading the whole thing, and then you miss the emotional impact of wondering what will happen!

  3. Well, of course, not all books are "only worth reading if the main character ends up with the guy." But that's what I wanted to find out with that particular book. The sort of thing to check for in the ending to see if a book's "worth reading" depends on the particular book.

    And it's fun to tease you, Mom, by reading a random chapter of your book out of context. :) Although, I've only done that with one of your books, and after all, classes were still going at UTC and I didn't have time to read the whole thing...

  4. My mom does the same thing, but because she can't stand the suspense. I've given up trying to reform her:)

  5. This is a good demonstration of the fact that like it or not, a book will not always be read in the way the author intended. Whether it's because they read it with a different perspective on the story or because they spoil themselves on the ending, readers are going to do whatever they want with a book once it's out of the author's control and in their grubby little paws. It's annoying, but that's how it goes.

    I'm on your side here, though- how can it be any fun to read a book when you already know how it ends, or read an ending without any of the context? Seems counter-intuitive to me!

  6. I find it odd that Ariel doesn't even trust her own mother to write a good novel!! Sure, you can pick up a random book and not be sure of it's quality, but your own mother's work...?

  7. Oh this was funny! You should get your daughter to blog with you once in a while, you know like a "blog wars." I totally understand the twitching part - my husband reads the ends ahead of time too.

    On the other hand, I'd be thankful my daughter is reading even if she is skipping around!

  8. Andrew, of course I "trust my own mother's work." As I said, I read the ending of her book to tease her (I knew it would annoy her :) and also because I was in the middle of classes at UTC and didn't have time to read the whole thing right away.

  9. I agree with you there, Alexie. If you just read the ending you could very easily miss something earlier in the novel that helps you understand the ending. If you don't understand the beginning, then you won't understand the ending.