There are some writers who hit you squarely in the stomach with their prose and you both love and hate them for it. These individuals are so skilled that they can take you on a meandering, and at times boring journey which is punctuated with moments of absolute bliss. Ha, much like the theme of life and one’s purpose within this universe that they write about. But isn’t that the whole point of fiction? To show us glimpses of our humanity? To curate beauty and ugliness?
I just finished close to 800 pages of this type of narrative in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. As much I don’t regret reading it, because it’s absolutely gorgeous, I also feel slightly peeved and cheated. She strings us along and gets us invested in tragic Theo Decker, whom you hope and pray does not screw up his life any further than it already is. You feel empathy that he’s lost his mother and you dearly wish that he will find a place to thrive. But at the end, when Tartt suddenly lays it all out there, to offer up what she’s withheld so easily, I thought, really? That’s what you decide to do with me as a reader? After taking a breath though, I understand her method and motivation. She’s trying to demonstrate that life is full of these complexities. It’s inconstant, unfair and as long as you keep yelling its faults from the rooftops you’re only going to get in your own way. Instead, why not try to go with the flow a little and take it as it comes?
A similar message is conveyed in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, which to be honest I don’t remember the particulars of. All I know is that it has something to do with trains, values and overbearing parents. The take away though is, don’t wait. All of this waiting for the timing to be perfect or for all of it to be aligned will just sweep away any chance you have of enjoying yourself. We are never ready. Above all, just do something, anything, to get on with it. We so need more of this in our society: reminders to be good.
There is an endpoint, we all have one, so don’t be afraid of the fallout. Everything gets rebuilt once more.