The optimistic reader
Ellen Geyer | Wednesday, January 30, 2019
I have always loved reading. Growing up, I always had a book in my hand, tearing through them as if reading was the last thing I would ever do. As a relatively quiet kid, I loved the way books made me feel, and to me, there were no friends better than the ones I found between the pages of my favorite stories.
But no matter how much I read, I could never quite understand why some authors didn’t give their stories happy endings. It drove me insane. Here writers were, creating perfect worlds with infallible characters, building up plots of love and friendship and camaraderie, only to destroy them with cunning twists and diabolical characters. The more I thought about it, the crazier it made me. Authors were in complete control of the worlds they created — why in the world would they ruin them with conflict?
My astonishment continued, and I resolved that when I was older, my life’s work would become the re-writing of historical works. I would take out all the characters I didn’t like, all the twists I found unnecessary, and perfectly reconstruct tragic plots so everyone lived happily ever after. So much classic literature drove me nuts, and I assumed that others felt the same way, so I set my mind on my mission, resolving that by doing so I would be making the world a better place.
Over time, I made a mental list of all the literature that needed to be re-done, noting which details and characters I would change. Even as I got older and realized that this mission was not entirely feasible, I persisted in constructing my list of works to be re-vamped. I resolved that in “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet would wake up from her sleep before Romeo killed himself. I decided that Daisy would never run Myrtle over, allowing her to choose Gatsby and be with him forever. Winston would break out from under Big Brother in “1984,” and Tom Robinson would be acquitted in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The list went on and on, and every time I read a book with an ending I didn’t like, I wouldn’t worry because I knew that one day, I would remedy the bad endings and all would be right with the world.
What can I say? I’ve always been an optimist and I’ve never liked confrontation, so it only makes sense that I wanted characters with the same ideals. I knew that books were meant to teach lessons, but I thought these lessons could still be equally effective if they were told from a happier point of view.
I get it. The tragedies are what make the stories. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t still root for my favorite characters, secretly hoping that all the sad details will somehow fall out of books while they sit idly on the shelf. Regardless of whatever cosmic significance tragedy may imply, you have to admit that it would be nice if just once Romeo and Juliet lived happily ever after.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.