Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, May 31, 2010

And They Didn't Live Happily Ever After?

According to a sports column I recently read, every three seconds a child is born. That comes out to roughly 28,800 children every single day! By that math, there have been over 800,000 children born into this world that have no idea what a blog by Jeff Savage is. Yikes!!!

Okay, so that’s my way of saying I haven’t blocked in four weeks. I would apologize, but the truth is that I suddenly find myself with potentially four series of books, a new job, and I am traveling nearly every week. I love to blog, but if it comes down to getting my day’s writing in or doing a blog, writing will almost always win out. Huh, guess that makes me a writer. But I am remiss, and so yeah, here I am. I promise I will try to do better.

Speaking of traveling, last week I was in New York for business. Thursday night my boss and I realized that if we hurried we could go to the city (we were working and staying on Long Island) in time to catch a show. I quickly discovered three things. Long Island traffic is a bear. There are NO public toilets in all of Manhattan. (Not totally true but it felt like it after a dozen or so Diet Cokes and the aforementioned traffic.) And NYC rainstorms give you absolutely no warning before soaking you to the bone.

The good news was that we found a cheap parking garage only a few blocks from Times Square, I remembered where the half-price day of the show ticket place was, and there were plenty of shows available. The other good news was that my boss’s wife is a huge theater buff. Her dad wrote the script for Saturday’s Warrior and founded Tuacahn. So we called her and got several recommendations for shows. We’d both seen all the old classics, so we picked a play called Next to Normal. The lead won a Tony last year and the play won a Pulitzer. This was good because I don’t like silly shows. I can watch Les Mis a hundred times over, but force me to watch A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, or even worse, Pirates of Penzance, and I will literally chew my fingers to bloody stumps.

So we saw the play. And it was amazing. The acting was superb. The singing was the kind that makes you go right out and buy the sound track. There was quite a bit of profanity, but I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring that if the story is gripping. And the story was gripping. But here’s the thing. It is the story of a family dealing with the death of a child, and a mother who is seriously mentally unstable. From midway through the first half you realize this play can’t possibly end happily. The child won’t be brought back. The mother may get somewhat better, but they won’t all live happily ever after.



(There is some mild profanity in this video, but it is TV level)

Of course this is not new. Lots of books and stories don’t end happily. Think Romeo and Juliet. Think Somewhere in Time. Do any Jane Austen books end happily? I’m sure they must, but from what I’ve seen on TV they all seem to be about dour women and effeminate men. Not a happy combination from my point of view. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard Mr. Darcy is supposed to be hot but really, come on, his name is Darcy. Tell me that kid didn’t play with Barbies when he was little. Okay, I’ve gotten off track.

My point was that there are lots of stories that don’t end happily. I wrote Into the Fire, a modern day retelling of the story of Job in the Old Testament. You know that isn’t going to be a total upper. When I walked out of the play, my boss asked if I liked it. I told him that I’m not sure you can really say you “liked” a play like that. I was moved by it. I was enthralled by it. I bought the soundtrack and can’t stop humming “Superboy and the Invisible Girl.” But did I like it? I’m not sure.



So how about you? How do you feel about stories that do not end with “and they lived happily ever after?” Can you love a story that leaves you sad at the end?


23 Comments:

At 5/31/2010 9:26 PM, Anonymous mean aunt said...

Jeff,you have totally annoyed me with the Austen thing. I'm not a rabid fan, but not knowing that her stories end happily is pretty lame on your part. Now if you want to mock Twilight--I'll help.

I must be feeling extra mean today.

I have been moved, inspired, brought to tears, etc by sad endings. I do find that I am less likely to re-read a book that is sad.

 
At 5/31/2010 9:53 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

No worries, MA. You're not the first person I've annoyed, and I'm sure you won't be the last.

 
At 6/01/2010 12:30 AM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

I want to know what your boss's wife's name is. I went to school with the older Stewart children.

That said,I don't mind a sad ending, but like Mean Aunt said, I'm not likely to re-read it.

Of course, once at a YSA activity, they were watching Charlie and my husband wandered in and said, "Oh has she gotten sick yet?" and all the YSAs were horrified that he had "given away" the plot.

He assumed they had actually read the book.

 
At 6/01/2010 10:37 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

I agree, sad endings are usually one time reads.

But I've found stories that end sadly usually touch me very deeply. They force me to think about things I might normally glaze over because of emotional discomfort. They make you feel and think--and there's nothing wrong with that!

Happy endings are great. But how often are you impacted with more than a laugh and a good time when the story ends that way?

 
At 6/01/2010 10:48 AM, Blogger T said...

oh, I have to disagree with MA - you can mock Austen all you want... it's a positive for this reader :)

and maybe when I can wrap my brain around a musical about the death of a child I'll want to see that show...

 
At 6/01/2010 11:24 AM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I'm sorry this is completely off topic, but I think you opened the door on this, Counselor: what's the new job with the boss and stuff?

Also, you really should do yourself a favor and actually, you know, READ a Jane Austen book. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Start with P&P or Emma; you already know the story, now enjoy the writing. =)

 
At 6/01/2010 11:44 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Jon,

You would probably be quite surprised at the amount of Austen I have read. Mostly I was trying to bug Austen, I even misspelled her name just to get more of a rise, but no one was mentioning it, so I went ahead and changed it back.

But the truth of the matter is that I am not fond of Austen. Not because she's not a good writer--I can see why many readers like her. The writing is witty and intelligent. But because I don't like the type of books she writes. To me, they all read like long soap operas. I guess when the duke finally realizes that he loves the country girl, and her parents realize the third sister isn't really right for him, and the girl decides maybe she does need a man that it is a happy ending, but by that point I just don't care.

It's like how I really enjoy Stephen King books, but to many people he is gross and demented. Anyway, yeah back to writing.

 
At 6/01/2010 11:45 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Meant to say, I was trying to bug Austen fans--which my writing group is almost entirely made up of.

 
At 6/01/2010 11:47 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

I'm not bugged that you don't like Austen, but I'm appalled that you don't like Gilbert and Sullivan!

 
At 6/01/2010 11:53 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Oh, that I DO hate. Hate, hate, hate. It is like finger nails on chalkboard to me. I'd seriously rather watch three hours of Barney the purple dinosaur.

 
At 6/01/2010 12:42 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Jeff, I'm trying to maintain my respect for you, but it's hard . . . so hard . . .

 
At 6/01/2010 12:45 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Wait, you had respect for me?!

 
At 6/01/2010 1:06 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Yes . . . but now, all things considered, I might even be disillusioned enough to tear down the Jeff Savage shrine that currently takes up half my living room. And I guess I'll stop the legal proceedings to change my name to J. Scott, and we'll stop eating on those Farworld placements, and the mural with your face painted on the side of my van--that's gotta go too.

 
At 6/01/2010 2:00 PM, Blogger Krista said...

Forgive me for going movies here, but films I loved and will never watch again:

Message In A Bottle

City of Angels

Titanic

... once was enough, I guess.

 
At 6/01/2010 2:35 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

So, should I infer that you don't want to talk about the new job, or that it was more fun for you to talk about (Kate?) Jane Austen?

 
At 6/01/2010 3:30 PM, Blogger Melanie J said...

My sister-in-law travels to NYC often for business and she was telling me I had to see Next to Normal just last night. Luckily (one of the few times I'll use that word for this circumstance), I live near LA and it will probably make its way here eventually. I'll be sure to check it out.

 
At 6/01/2010 6:15 PM, Blogger symphonyofdissent said...

First of all Next to Normal is Phenomenal and Alice Ripley's performance must be seen.

I think as Mormons we are not very good at dealing with tragedy because our revelations so concretely offer promises of redemption and salvation. We can handle temporary set backs and adversity but struggle to find meaning in depression, death and despair.

 
At 6/01/2010 11:30 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

Symphony, that could be. But I'm not completely sure I buy that Mormons are any worse at dealig with tragedy than anyone else. I think there are people who deal with good fortune better and people who deal with trials better. I copmpletely agree though, that NTN is a great show and Ripley is amazing.

Jon, not avoiding the job thing. Just not much to tell. After a year of being a struggling writer, I decided I would rather be a non-struggling writer and took a job very similar to what I have been doing. It makes finding writing time MUCH harder, but it makes paying the bills MUCH easier.

Sigh.

 
At 6/02/2010 4:25 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Thanks, Jeff. I was hoping momentarily you'd found a job in publishing. Ah well. Congratulations, anyway! (How does this affect the timeline of your next Shandra book coming out?)

I don't know about modern Mormons and tragedy (see: Utah/Prozac) but think about the pioneers, 3-D in spades. (Death, despair, depression) I'd say we cope as well with death as many Christian denominations. *shrug*

 
At 6/03/2010 2:28 AM, Blogger pwells said...

First off, we'll just skip over your skewed views on "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum" and "Pirates of Penzance", both of which I have directed on stage. Ask Rob sometime about his painting all the sets for Pirates in two days.
Getting back to Austen however, I'm sure Darcy wasn't scarred by that name as a child. His first name was Fitzwilliam.

 
At 6/03/2010 12:50 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Maybe that's what toughened him up from the Barbie-playing tyke to the he-man he became.

 
At 6/08/2010 8:45 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

Real life doesn't always end happily, and so the sad ending doesn't bother me, but it must end with hope. Sad without hope is a lie. Life is sad sometimes, and things don't always go the way we want them, but there will always be hope.

 
At 6/16/2010 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, If a book is well writen a sad ending can be a good thing. Wuthering Heights (if your going to abuse classics) has a sad ending, well written. However I dispise it greatly (English teachers fault). Gone with the wind has a sad ending but really could it have been otherwise? the girl couldn't have the boy he was too good for her. I love a happy ending but sometimes it feels contrived and unrealistic, lets face it life dosn't always have happy endings. If you want to write a sad ending; make it real, write it good.

 

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