This week I finished a subpar mystery and promptly wrote about it to fellow Lady Jilly. I spared nothing. I revealed clunky plot points, egregious characterizations, poorly constructed story arcs, and, perhaps worst of all, the irritating and unrewarding ending. Not only that, I said that had I known how the book ended, I wouldn’t have started it.
This discussion was all in the name of science, of course: I read bad books so others don’t have to.
But then the story broke about the Russian scientist stationed in Antarctica. You’ve probably read this one. Sergey Savitsky stabbed coworker Oleg Beloguzov in the heart for revealing the endings of books.
According to multiple news sources, Savitsky and Beloguzov had been colleagues for four years at the Bellinghausen research facility located on King George Island, part of the South Shetland island group. In their off-duty hours, employees enjoy two Russian television stations, exercising at a gym, or reading in the research library. And although the reading dispute was the final straw, evidently a generous consumption of alcohol and the close confinement in the camp played a role in the attack.
In the good news dept, Beloguzov is making a full recovery in a Chilean hospital, and Savitsky is under house arrest in St. Petersburg, no doubt reading to the end of his books in peace and quiet.
I feel for both these guys. Who wants to have your book choices repeatedly ruined? I understand why Savitsky snapped.
And I tend to think that Beloguzov must have been a jerk. Or maybe he had a personal grudge against the scientist. Still, I see his point: sometimes I like to know the ending of the book before I get there—or in the case of the subpar mystery I complained about to Jilly, I’d like to know the ending before I start. (Where’s Beloguzov when you need him?) Will the time I spend with this story have the payoff I want and deserve? If the book is difficult, will the ending give me the closure I need? If I’ve invested a few hours and I’m halfway through and finding it heavy going, should I go on? Or quit before I throw good time after bad?
I never used to check out a book’s ending before I got there the old-fashioned way—by reading my way through the rest of the book first. Now, perhaps confronted by my own mortality and knowing I’ll never be able to read all the books I want, I go to the ending as soon as I’m not sure I want to finish, just checking to make sure the journey’s one I want to take.
What about you?