Monday, August 4, 2008

A Mediocre Story

When asked how it was he intended to conclude the novel, he said, I don’t know, hopefully he dies. Nobody had ever read the story, but many people had heard a great deal about it. One person, for instance, was intimately familiar with both the third and eighteenth chapters, but knew virtually nothing about any of the others. Not even his wife, with her interminable questioning, had much more than a vague sketch of the narrative arc of the story. Thus when he told a group of people that he hoped he died at the end of the book, many people present had guesses as to who the character was that the author was referring to, but none of them were at all certain. Some hesitant voice ventured, One man of some significance appeared twice, I think, in the span of only a few chapters. Perhaps it’s him! Perhaps, someone mumbled in response, but I remember hearing about So and So at least four times. This sort of blind sleuthing went on for a great deal of time, but only served to compound people’s confusion about who the author hoped would die at the novel’s end.

He had been working on this novel for well over three decades, and though it was rumored to be both quite good and quite long, people were genuinely concerned they may never get to actually read a page of it before they themselves died. Some mildly respectable figure gave voice to this concern and he, the novelist, looked sourly down upon this man and said, That’s precisely why I haven’t published it: even the most mediocre stories all end like mine.

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