Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sigh. Heavy Sigh.

Well, I was enjoying Cold Mountain, right up until the end. (Spoilers ahead.) I hate randomly unhappy endings--endings that end badly just because, and not because they've been interwoven into the true theme of the story. (The worst offender of all time in this category is The Mill on the Floss, which essentially ends with "And then suddenly there was a flood and they all died, which sorted out the complex inter-personal problems I've built up for 350 pages very easily." Nice job there, Ms. Eliot. Pity you lived in the pre-nuclear era--you could have just had someone drop the bomb.) Random misfortune is, of course, part of the warp and woof of life, but fiction demands more, I think, unless said fiction is about random misfortune. Which, I don't know, maybe Cold Mountain is, and yet the way the ending was handled was, to my mind, shockingly ham-fisted, given the care with which the author had treated his subject up until then. "Oh, and before they could live happily ever after, this happened, so they didn't. But aren't the hills of North Carolina pretty? The End." Screw that--it's just a "f*** you" to the reader. Yes, I suppose there's a case to be made about, oh, the not-really-irony of a man trying to escape senseless brutality and death, seeking a place of refuge, only to find that it has followed him there. But if that's so, then give us a head's up--foreshadowing, motif--something. Not just...well, not just that. It ends with such a note of de rigeur--"Well, can't end happily--got to make them close the book with tears in their eyes--now, how to do it, how to it...hmmm...oh, the hell with it--here." Nope, not buyin' what he's sellin'. I'm not saying that the story needs to end happily, mind--perhaps it shouldn't. But given where he'd pointed it, that seemed a likelier outcome than any other--a novel is not an O. Henry short story--no 'twist' endings, please, especially if they're not really 'twists' so much as 'cop-outs.' Disappointing, very very disappointing...


Blogger phd me said...

Agreed. I wanted to like CM but it just didn't work for me. I felt like the author was sitting on my shoulder, pointing out how clever he was: "Did you catch that symbolism? Aren't you impressed with that allusion? Gee, I'm the next best thing, aren't I?" And I hated, hated, hated the randomness of the plot. Inman may have known where he was going but Frazier sure didn't. So glad to find someone who doesn't think it's the best thing ever.

8:55 PM  

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