If this book gets any worse, I’m going to hurl myself into traffic.
So. I have to confess, I’m not feeling very ragey today. I’m not feeling ragey at all, actually. I am feeling kind of happy. It’s a gorgeous day outside. Just for you guys, though, I will try to get myself into a proper ragey mood.
(thinks about all the things that make me mad, like people who get in my way at the store with their huge stupid shopping carts, or people who drive like morons and almost make me have a car accident, or, there was this one time that I was at Kroger and there was a sign at the deli that said cheese was on sale but it rang up regular price and then I told them it was on sale and it seriously took them TEN MINUTES to walk five feet over to the deli and check and then they told me it was NOT on sale, but it WAS, I read the sign, and I got so mad that I walked out and left all of my groceries at the U-Scan and then my husband and I had a fight in the car so I ragequit and walked like a mile to get home and it was hot and I was really tired. Also, douchey acoustic cover bands.)
Okay, I think I’m ready to go.
When I settle down to read, I’m making a serious time commitment. This isn’t a 30-minute television show, or even a 90-minute movie, but a book that could take me anywhere from three hours to three days to read. I’m no great finisher of books that don’t grab me; if I think a book sucks within the first few chapters, I’ll put it down and I won’t feel bad about it. No sweat–I always have a mountain of books waiting to be read, and even if I don’t, I can walk to the library for even more books. I don’t get mad at books for sucking because I have no compunction tossing it aside. I don’t get mad at all.
Unless I do like the book. Unless it’s good enough to get me halfway through. Good enough to get me three-quarters of the way through, and then BAM! The author ends the book with a load of suckitude, usually within the last 10% of the book. Then? I’m mad. I’m super-mad. I’m Hulk-green sneaky-hate-spiral ripping-out-of-my-clothes-because-I feel-the-need-to-tear-them-to-shreds mad. This might be the thing that makes me rage the most about reading, and I get pretty ragey sometimes. In case you couldn’t tell, or anything.
It’s like this, but with reading.*
What books pissed me off in their final moments? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I have a list for you. Naturally.
NOTE! WARNING! CAUTION! ACHTUNG! HEY, YOU!
Because of the nature of this post being about the ends of books, it’s going to be spoilery as fuck. None of these books has just come out recently or anything, but if you haven’t read the book and you think you might want to read the book, do not read the bits I wrote about the book. You never know when a spoiler might ninja out of the paragraph and land in your eyeballs. Also, this post is about books that made me hate them rather than books I thought didn’t make sense. It’s an emotional reaction. I say this because I know I’m going to bitch about books that people like; I’d like to explain now that I still hate the endings even if I understand what the author was going for, so I can hopefully circumvent the “BUT YOU DID NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENED!!1!” comments.
I understood. Still hate.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Someone in my book club recommended this book to me and I read it on her suggestion. I read it even though it was a doorstop and even though it had the Oprah book club logo plastered all over it, which gives me hives. Now, I thought that A Fine Balance was a fine book, well-written and all of that. In case you haven’t read it, it follows the story of several characters: a woman, Dina, a woman who has spent the past twenty years of her life doing whatever it takes not to have to move back in with her dickhead brother (who would definitely qualify for the list of characters I’d like to punch in the face); Maneck, a young college student who comes to board with Dina; and Ishvar and Omprakash, a father-and-son duo of untouchables who have come to Mumbai to seek work as tailors. As fate would have it, Dina needed to hire tailors, so they all eventually ended up living together as one big strange family. They grow to love each other, in their own ways. It was nice. I got a little verklempt.
Then, things took a turn for the worse. In fact, everything basically went to hell for everyone except Maneck, who got a job and got the fuck out of there.
And hey, listen: I know a lot of stories about India take turns for the worse, in books and in real life. I know that I’m sitting here in my couch on my fat American ass and that for me to boo-hoo about a sad story from a country I’ve never visited reeks of privilege. Even though Mistry systematically took every. single. thing. away from the characters that was at all good, and even killed a few off, I was coming to terms with it by the end. I was. I really was. Even though I hated it when Dina had to move back to her brother’s house, even though I hated it that Ishvar and Om became beggars, even though I hated it when Om lost his balls because someone cut them off, by the end, I was able to deal.
Until Maneck threw himself in front of a damn train.
Maneck had been developed the least of all the main characters. His re-entry in the epilogue, as a pair of outside eyes, served a powerful purpose of showing us the situation from an outside perspective. In my opinion? That was enough, given that the book had largely been about Dina, Ishvar, and Omprakash. I had to re-read the paragraph where he killed himself three or four times just to get it into my head that it actually happened. Really? This had to be the capper of the book? Maneck endures a sliver of the hardship that the others endured, yet he’s the one to off himself. Lovely.
I get why he killed himself, I do. Thematically, that is. I understand what Mistry was going for. I just thought it was a shitty way to end the book. The book was already depressing as hell, and I felt like he kicked me while I was down. Then pissed all over my face for good measure.
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
I am no great fan of Peter Carey. I picked up Oscar and Lucinda because, at the time, our book club was abuzz about him. Like Balance, O&L is another book where the author presumably got paid by the page, because it’s solid. It started off slowly for me, and I should have listened to my reading instincts; I could have put down the book and walked away from it, but I didn’t. Eventually, as Oscar grew up and we met Lucinda, it got its hooks in me.
Their approach-avoidance romance became terribly, frustratingly sweet as the pages flew by. Carey put one more obstacle, and one more confusion, and another and another between them as they tried so hard just to be able to love each other like two normal human beings might. The build-up became intense. Finally, the last, greatest challenge stood between Oscar and Lucinda: the delivery, through treacherous land, of the glass cathedral that Oscar had built for a man that Lucinda had been close to, thinking it would win the love of Lucinda (who, of course, loved him already). (Never mind that having church in a glass cathedral would be the most excruciating religious experience ever, especially after it sat a few hours in the sun. I’d rather have church in my car; at least there’s air conditioning. And a radio.) They made a wager concerning the whole of Lucinda’s fortune, a wager designed to bring them together in the end. A wager that Lucinda made of love.
The journey was harrowing. They arrived at their destination. The glass cathedral had been erected on a barge–I can’t remember why, I’ve rageblocked quite a bit of the ending–and it sat. A reader held her breath, waiting for the fulfillment promised by every single previous page in the book. Here it is. The moment. The verge.
In true heroic fashion, Oscar fucked and married some other woman that he just met, fell asleep in the floating cathedral, and drowned. The kicker is that, because of the wager, the bitch also inherited all of Lucinda’s cash. Shameless hussy 1, Oscar and Lucinda 0. Reader -123981723918723.
I will never read Peter Carey again.
Fuck you, Peter Carey.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
(Possible molestation trigger warning? I don’t really know how triggers work for everyone. It’s not graphic, but I don’t want anybody to feel icky from my blog.)
Boy goes to high school. Boy makes friends. Boy has first sexual encounter with his close friend; boy freaks out. Boy has a dream-memory about his favoritest aunt forever molesting him, thus explaining the freak-out. Boy goes to hospital and gets all better. Book ends.
Girl hates book.
I know, a lot of people love this book. LOVE it. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I do not. I feel like I got cheated out of the most important part of the story–how Charlie grows and changes after he has that horrible realization. We do see some character growth from Charlie during the novel, but once that bomb hits and Charlie has a big-deal breakdown, everything seems to get wrapped up a little too quickly. “Oh yeah, my aunt used to molest me on a weekly basis and stuff, but I forgive her and maybe I’ll even make some new friends at school next year! Yeah!”
I also have a hard time believing that the family would have told all of Charlie’s relatives so that they could send flowers and junk (although I can’t remember if they specified that they told the fam all of the details or just that Charlie was in the hospital). “Hey, remember Aunt Helen? WELL. Apparently she was a huge pedo, WHO KNEW?” Those are the kinds of things that families tend to keep private, not just out of embarrassment but out of respect for the person going through treatment. Many victims of molestation like to keep it on the down low, especially at first, because they’re still struggling with fresh feelings of humiliation, shame, and all of the other components of that wonderful emotional cocktail that arises from sexual abuse. Of course, Charlie seems to be flying through all of that at record speed anyway, so maybe it’s not an issue.
Honestly, too? The book didn’t need the molestation. At all. The best parts of the book dealt with Charlie’s struggle to stop reacting to his life and start participating in it. The feeling of being a wallflower is something that many young people can relate to, especially when they’ve just started high school. Charlie didn’t need an explanation for his being socially awkward–and if you’re going to create an explanation, Jesus, what a thing to throw out of left field. I think the molestation took away from Charlie’s story, frankly–partially because I feel it was handled so badly in the narrative, mostly because it was a distraction from the real point of the story.
I AM SORRY THIS POST WAS SO LONG.
As you can see, I have so much rage for this topic. What about you? Tell me what books you liked until you didn’t. Or defend your favorites if I put them on blast. Or tell me something that pissed you off at work this week. Leave it in the comments below!
*Image by Allie Brosh. I wanted to put the credit up there in the caption, but I felt like it disrupted the narrative flow. SORRY ALLIE. I love you. I also put it in the alt text. And there are TWO LINKS. I am crediting you so much. I hope this is acceptable.