There was, for once, a segment about books on the news this morning. It was done the way they normally handle news about books – in a jokey, we-knows-this-is-not-really-news way (unlike the endless news about football transfers, which is handled with deadly seriousness. I get very annoyed about the uneven coverage of arts as compared to sport).
The news was an author had written a book that had not only one ending, not even three, but eleven.
That’s right, eleven. You can choose your own ending. She had been writing a book, and thought this could go one of two ways, and decided to write multiple endings.
They had another author as guest, who said he also found a point in his book that it could go either way, but he usually settled on one just ending by the time it came to writing. Then he went back and planted hints to the ending all the way through the book. (I do this too)
She said she had also planted clues through the book to all eleven endings.
I’m still focused on that number. Eleven!
Surely some truth is lost, if there is that many possible endings? In life, things end one way, and one way only. Whilst I wish we lived in a world where we could go back and do it again, in the end, the ending is inevitable.
She did say if she could change the end of a classic story, she would change the end of Romeo and Juliet so they lived happily ever after. That made me shudder. Whilst we might wish that Romeo and Juliet lived happily, the fact we don’t get that wish is an essential part of the story. Changing the ending is missing the truth of the story.
I’m genuinely bemused by this. Is it wrong of me to insist the ending is the ending? Is having the reader choose one of multiple endings brilliant or a mistake? Does it strip the characters of all motivation and purpose if they could behave differently eleven different times, of does it make them more layered and more complex?
And will I read it, knowing if I don’t like the way it ends, I can go back and start again? To be honest, probably not – but will you?