The novelist Adam Novy was recently interviewed in Outlet: Electric Literature‘s blog. And he said something about happy endings that made me think more deeply about fiction and anxiety (see my recent post Fiction is dread.)
I need a happy ending as much as any American and I feel existentially abandoned if I don’t get one, but I think happy endings make us stupid. It’s a little embarrassing that we have to cheer up the reader so much. Aren’t there drugs for that? I know why writers imply that we’re supposed to teach the reader to be more generous and more sympathetic, and that we create the possibility for something better by putting that better vision in our work, but I also feel like we have a job to give the reader the tools to understand loss. One way to say it is that writing can help us repair the world, but it can also help us understand loss, and maybe to know if loss didn’t have to happen the way it did.
I love the sense that writing helps readers repair the world, and it sounds beautiful to help readers replot narratives of loss. But isn’t that the way to madness, to replay those stories of loss in our heads? Maybe his novel The Avian Gospels will answer that question. (I’m planning to receive it as a b-day present.)
The Outlet interview is wonderful,go ahead and read it, especially for his comments on how the internet makes him anxious. You can tell that from his web site, which has Hieronymus Bosch repros and crazy birds.