And They Didn't Live Happily Ever After?
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?