Words and Wheels Part I

All depends on chance – or does it.

We talk. We read. We are constantly playing with words. Sometimes our introduction to an author,  to a character, to a book, depends on chance. Although perhaps that is generally the case in most encounters, real-life or on the printed page.

Sometimes though, what sparked my interest (or yours) might be the illustration on the cover of a book that was lying on a table waiting for someone to pick it up. Or perhaps a specific novel had been enthusiastically recommended by a friend. Or … any number of others.

Eventually, then, if my curiosity has been piqued,  and I have that up to then homeless book in my hand, I find myself sitting in an office chair, the most comfortable for my age, making friends with the author. Or I might decide to wait, if it is a slender volume I can hold with one hand, until I am already lying on my side in bed before turning off the light. It might be a book. It might be a short story.

Turning the pages, I gradually find myself identifying with the protagonist, a smartly dressed, intelligent woman, as she relives her past life, wondering if she could still change her future.  It does not however seem to be up to her, for on the next page she encounters an interesting man, a new acquaintance. Ideas, similar points of view, start swimming to the surface as they get to know each other. As the story develops, questions arise in my mind – who is he? Isn’t there something odd about him? Is he really the person he passes himself off as? Is she falling into a trap? My interest in the two of them gradually takes over and before long I want to know how it will all end up and start skimming over one paragraph and the next.

I give in to temptation and decide to skip to the last few pages. You may ask do I really want to know the end before coming to the end?

In this case, Yes, I do.

It doesn’t in the least spoil my enjoyment of the story, but by knowing how it will all end up, I can pay more attention to the way in which the author is slowly leading me to  a denouement, and whether I have guessed right. The surprise is there in my not being completely right. If I know what happens in the end, I can take my time getting there without that “can’t wait till I find out” mentality.

In a novel, I would just as soon know what is eventually going to happen. In going forward to that inevitable ending I can see how the author had gradually given us hints, how he or she has constructed the plot as it leads to that ending.

It depends on the author, on the style. What makes us want to read a book? What makes us want to continue reading? Who is the story addressed to? Can we stop halfway through, lay it aside and pick it up in a week?

A novel though of course is one thing. Someone has decided what the outcome will be. But in the story of our life, we would perhaps rather not know the outcome. Like the protagonist in the story I have been reading, she is unaware of what tomorrow, or even the next few minutes, hold in store.

Nor do I know what my tomorrow will bring. There may not even be a tomorrow, but it is not up to me to decide. Chance? Predetermination? The only certain fact is that some day I shall leave this world. And I would  rather not know just how or when. I am not of course a character in a novel. Not knowing means I can hope, and even change that ending. For who says it has to be final? Who knows whether the ending might not really be the ending.

4 thoughts on “Words and Wheels Part I

  1. Well, I must admit that I did not see coming the philosophical turn at the end of this piece. I think I was too busy getting caught up in the shock of hearing that you sometimes look at the end of a book before finishing it. I would never do that, and it’s rare for me to give up on even a book that I don’t like. I guess I’m a completist in that regard, and you made me think twice about wanting to know the outcome of my own story. I do like the series of questions you pose.

    I’m remembering the first time I heard someone say “It is what it is” and I found that so profound. Perhaps this is a reductive way of encapsulating my newfound interest in mindfulness. Thank you as usual for providing food for thought.


    1. Shocked by the fact that I might skip to the last pages of a book to see what had happened? Actually I don’t do that very often. And not with gialli or with novels. A short story is something else. I don’t however finish up a book if I don’t like it. Feel it is a waste of time.

      And maybe it depends on how I read, which is generally a brief bit before turning off the light. Although I might read a couple of pages while waiting for my computer to warm up. I also reread a lot of books which means of course I know how they’ll end.


  2. Like Diane Joy Charney, I did not see the philosophical reflections coming along at the end. I understand those. Also – and here I differ from Diane Joy Charney! – I often enjoy a book more when I know how it ends. I can take it more slowly and relish the details instead of half-skipping through the pages to reach the end of the plot!


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