The Undiscovered Country


I have noticed that over the past couple of years I have not bothered finishing books, the endings don’t matter to me. There have been some exceptions for instance John Burnside’s A Summer of Drowning and that as I expected just stopped really, as many of his do, which is how it should be. I still begin at the beginning but I have been wondering whether to just open up a book and start from where I open it at random, as I know how much care is taken by writers, editors and publishers to get the first few pages right to entice you in.

One of the things some of the readers of The Report have fed back to me is how they think it needs to be longer and that the ending is not an ending. To me it is, is that arrogance? Well perhaps, but the story reached a conclusion where the next steps were just that, steps which could be imagined by the reader, left to your own device.

It appears George R R Martin does not want to finish his series of books that is now the TV series The Game of Thrones. I think that is right. I read the first one and would never wish to read another word he wrote, but the TV series is enjoyable twaddle. I enjoy how layer upon layer is added and sometimes pulled out from under the viewers’ feet, but nothing really moves on. The story, like life, continues relentlessly whether the ‘hero’ has been discarded or not. Twin Peaks had that same feel, people wanted resolution after the first few episodes, but the entanglement and darkness burrowed deeper and deeper into the soul of the town until there was no need for resolution.

Why do we look for endings? Is it an assurity, a safe place for us. Games have strict beginnings and endings, I love football and there is a 90 minute period where we know all that goes on – goes on, and we know an ending, a resolution, will happen whether we like the outcome or not. The game offers us a period we can let our anger, joy, hidden feelings become public alongside thousands of others.

But real life isn’t like that is it?

We think that an ending of a life is an end, it is for the person dying, ‘the undiscovered country’. But for the rest of us it is the start of grief, the reorganising of our lives, the beginning of memory and past tenses. The endings in our lives are as much a part of our lives as are beginnings – ‘In my end is my beginning’.  The retention of memories are absolutely vital in our culture, isn’t it Judaism that has Yahrzeit, an annual remembrance of someone who has died, lighting a candle to remember them? Most other religions do something similar in some way or other. Is that why people want to follow a religion? But what about someone like me, I have no and want no religious or spiritual belief?

My last blog was about objects and the people are kept alive as long as we remember them, but that fades, objects break, photographs fade.

A work of art has an odd lifespan. A painting is created with a moveable malleable liquid medium by an artist, which dries. If a portrait it has captured and stopped a person in time, a landscape a place, an abstract – a thought, a feeling, a need. If she/he is lucky it gets put on show or is sold. The artist dies, but the painting remains, slowly disintegrating, it may become fashionable or put into store, or like Churchill’s portrait by Sutherland destroyed. But it is there well beyond the lifespan of its creator. In some ways that creator still has life; how many of us listen to Bach or Beethoven, read Basho or Bennett, view Lowry or Leonardo, and they live within our lives for a period, sharing their interpretation of life. I watch the films of Francois Truffaut over and over, wishing that he could have developed his Antoine Doinel character who appeared in five films into later ages.

Is it immortality that unknowingly underlies the need like I have to be an artist? Perhaps, alongside the arrogance I mentioned!

I don’t want endings in books and Traitor will not have one, if it ever gets finished that will annoy those who want a nice rounded ending. Good!

Today’s photograph is of a window in an old factory in Tunstall which I took a photograph through on one of my blogs, it is now boarded up and has another life. It was taken at 10am on a hot sunny day.


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