On Epilogues and Ambiguity

  • Feb. 10th, 2011 at 7:11 PM
beth_shulman: (tv: cj cregg)
I've been thinking about this for a long while now, probably since reading Mockingjay last summer. I still haven't expressed what I mean very well, but I wanted to say it.

Spoilers ahoy )

There's been an odd finality to the epilogues of fantasy series recently. I think it's what accounts for the polarized reactions. Spelling out for readers exactly what happens years later is frustrating; it is bound to disappoint someone. It robs the readers of the limitless possibilities that result from ambiguity. It limits the impact of the author's theme because readers can no longer draw their own conclusions about the outcomes of the book's conflict - because the result of good versus evil is specified play-by-play.

Specifications )

T. S. Eliot

  • Feb. 2nd, 2011 at 7:25 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: violin)
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

(From Burnt Norton, Four Quartets)

Neil Gaiman

  • Feb. 1st, 2011 at 1:56 PM
beth_shulman: (book: wizard heir)
"He stared up at the stars: and it seemed to him then that they were dancers, stately and graceful, performing a dance almost infinite in its complexity. He imagined he could see the very faces of the stars; pale, they were, and smiling gently, as if they had spent so much time above the world, watching the scrambling and the joy and the pain of the people below them, that they could not help being amused every time another little human believed itself the center of its world, as each of us does." (Stardust)

John Green

  • Nov. 28th, 2010 at 10:06 PM
beth_shulman: (book: meg powers)
I was sitting back. I was listening. And I was hearing something about her and about windows and mirrors. Chuck Parson was a person. Like me. Margo Roth Spiegelman was a person, too. And I had never quite thought of her that way, not really; it was a failure of all my previous imaginings... I had been imagining her without listening, without knowing that she made as poor a window as I did. And so I could not imagine her as a person who could feel fear, who could feel isolated in a roomful of people, who could feel shy about her record collection because it was too personal to share. Someone who might read travel books to escape having to live in the town that so many people escape to.  Someone who - because no one thought she was a person - had no one to really talk to.

And all at once I knew how Margo Roth Spiegelman felt when she wasn't being Margo Roth Spiegelman: she felt empty. She felt the unscaleable wall surrounding her. I thought of her asleep on the carpet with only that jagged sliver of sky above her. Maybe Margo felt comfortable there because Margo the person lived like that all the time: in an abandoned room with blocked-out windows, the only light pouring in through holes in the roof. Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made - and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make - was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.

(Paper Towns)

J. M. Barrie

  • Nov. 27th, 2010 at 7:16 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: violin)
The scene is a darkened room, which the curtain reveals so stealthily that if there was a mouse on the stage it is there still. Our object is to catch our two chief characters unawares; they are Darkness and Light.

The room is so obscure as to be invisible, but at the back of the obscurity are French windows, through which is seen Lob's garden bathed in moon-shine. The Darkness and Light, which this room and garden represent, are very still, but we should feel that it is only the pause in which old enemies regard each other before they come to the grip. The moonshine stealing about among the flowers, to give them their last instructions, has left a smile upon them, but it is a smile with a menace in it for the dwellers in darkness. What we expect to see next is the moonshine slowly pushing the windows open, so that it may whisper to a confederate in the house, whose name is Lob. But though we may be sure that this was about to happen it does not happen; a stir among the dwellers in darkness prevents it.

These unsuspecting ones are in the dining-room, and as a communicating door opens we hear them at play. Several tenebrious shades appear in the lighted doorway and hesitate on the two steps that lead down into the unlit room. The fanciful among us may conceive a rustle at the same moment among the flowers. The engagement has begun, though not in the way we had intended.

(Dear Brutus, Act I)

T. S. Eliot

  • Nov. 19th, 2010 at 2:59 AM
beth_shulman: (stock: violin)
Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.
(From Burnt Norton, Four Quartets)


William Shakespeare

  • Nov. 18th, 2010 at 11:28 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: violin)
To be, or not to be– that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep
No more – and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to – ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep
To sleep, perchance to dream )

Eugene O'Neill

  • Oct. 17th, 2010 at 2:55 PM
beth_shulman: (Default)
"Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the only question. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be drunken continually. Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will. But be drunken.

"And if sometimes, on the stairs of a palace, or on the green side of a ditch, or in the dreary solitude of your own room, you should awaken and the drunkenness be half or wholly slipped away from you, ask of the wind, or of the wave, or of the star, or of the bird, or of the clock, or whatever flies, or sighs, or rocks, or sings, or speaks, ask what hour it is; and the wind, wave, star, bird, clock, will answer you: 'It is the hour to be drunken! Be drunken, if you would not be martyred slaves of Time; be drunken continually! With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will.'" (Long Day's Journey Into Night)

Alfred Lord Tennyson

  • Sep. 27th, 2010 at 8:39 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: violin)
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.


From Chapter Eight of Johnny Tremain

  • Aug. 31st, 2010 at 10:54 PM
beth_shulman: (black and white tree scene)
     ..."Sammy," he said to Sam Adams, "my coming interrupted something you were saying…'we will fight'. You had got that far."
     "Why, yes. That's no secret."
     "For what will we fight?"
     "To free Boston from these infernal redcoats and…"
     "No," said Otis. "Boy, give me more punch. That's not enough reason for going into a war. Did any occupied city ever have better treatment than we've had from the British? Has one rebellious newspaper been stopped—one treasonable speech? Where are the firing squads, the jails jammed with political prisoners? What about the gallows for you, Sam Adams, and you, John Hancock? It has never been set up. I hate those infernal British troops spread all over my town as much as you do. Can't move these days without stepping over a soldier. But we are not going off into civil war merely to get them out of Boston. Why are we going to fight? Why, why?"
     There was an embarrassed silence. Sam Adams was the acknowledged ringleader. It was for him to speak now. "We will fight for the rights of Americans. England cannot take our money away by taxes."
     "No, no. For something more important than the pocketbooks of our American citizens."
     Rab said, "For the rights of Englishmen—everywhere."
     "Why stop with Englishmen?" Otis was warming up. He had a wide mouth, crooked and generous. He settled back in his chair and then he began to talk. It was such a talk as Johnny had never heard before. The words surged up through the big body, flowed out of the broad mouth. He never raised his voice, and he went on and on…
     "…For men and women and children all over the world," he said. "...for even as we shoot down the British soldiers we are fighting for rights such as they will be enjoying a hundred years from now..."

     "It is all so much simpler than you think," he said. He lifted his hands and pushed against the rafters. "We give all we have, lives, property, safety, skills…we fight, we die, for one simple thing. Only that a man can stand up."

T. S. Eliot

  • Aug. 24th, 2010 at 9:08 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: violin)
...There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” ...

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

(The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)

Italics are mine

From Julius Caeser, Act II, Scene II

  • Jul. 27th, 2010 at 3:04 PM
beth_shulman: (violin)
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
beth_shulman: (book: meg powers)
      There was a flash, and all four of them jumped.
      "Good," the Globe photographer said. "Can you all maybe turn a little so I can see everyone's faces?"
      "Are we going to be famous?" Neal asked.
      Perish the thought. "Come on, Meg," Meg said to Beth. "Aren't you going to smile for him?"
      Beth shook her head. "I don't want to. I'm a Republican."
      "Yeah, but she's your mother," Meg said.
      Beth sniffed. "She's a bleeding heart, that's what she is."
      "Girls," Steven said sternly, imitating their father.
      "We're boys," Meg said.
      "No way," Steven said. "You're too ugly to be boys."
      Meg laughed. "Yeah, well, you're too ugly to-"
      "What do you all think of this?" Her mother's best friend, Andrea Peterson, stopped next to them, and they all sat up politely.
      "I think it's neat," Steven said, helping himself to more pizza.
      "I think it's loud," Neal said, still looking around.
      "What about you, Meg? Don't you think?" Mrs. Peterson asked.
      "Only twice a day," Meg said, grinning back. "And I used them up already."

Page 81 of my copy

The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I

  • Jun. 28th, 2010 at 3:29 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: violin)
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'T is mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's,
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

beth_shulman: (book: meg powers)
     "You hear we've got a celebrity up here this weekend?"
     "Oh?" Meg tried not to groan aloud.
     [Dave] nodded. "Yeah. Presidential candidate. You ever hear of Senator Powers?"
     Meg let herself look faintly puzzled. "She's the woman, right?"
     "Yeah." This time, his nod was patronizing, and he spoke in the authoritative voice of a college freshman taking Political Science 101. "Of course, she'll never win."
     Oh, really? "Why not?" she asked.
     "We need a man in the position," he said. "Particularly these days." 
     What a jerk. "We do?" she asked pleasantly.
     "Absolutely," he said, not even noticing that she'd stiffened. "Certainly, Powers is probably qualified, and she gives a good speech, but she wouldn't have the authority, especially in dealing with world leaders ..."
     It would be fun to watch and see how much further he could get his foot into his mouth. She smiled very, very pleasantly. "Why?"
     "No responsibility," he said.
     Within seconds, she was going to have to perform the Heimlich maneuver on him.
     Or perhaps, not perform it on him.
     "I mean... she'd probably be good at functions - she's poised, and God, no on can say she isn't good-looking. But, you have to have a man at the top."
     It was too late for the Heimlich; they had now moved into emergency tracheotomy territory.
     "But," he smiled at her, "I'm sorry to go on like that, I couldn't expect you to be interested."
     "Why not?" Meg asked in the voice of a champion Ice Queen.
     "Well, you're-" He paused, searching for a word. "I mean-"
     "Look," she cut him off. "Before you say anything else, maybe you should know something."
     "What's that?" he asked, sounding amused by what he seemed to consider her presumptuousness.
     "Senator Powers is my mother," she said.
     He stared at her. "Y-your mother?"
     She nodded. "My mother ... Thanks for helping me up."

Pages 58-59 of my copy

Orson Scott Card

  • Jun. 20th, 2010 at 3:02 AM
beth_shulman: (ender's game)
... It was a lie, of course, that it wouldn't hurt a bit. But since adults always said that when it was going to hurt, he could count on that statement as an accurate prediction of the future. Sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth. (Ender's Game)

F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Jun. 20th, 2010 at 2:54 AM
beth_shulman: (book: great gatsby art)
And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder. (The Great Gatsby)

From Chapter Four of The President's Daughter

  • Jun. 16th, 2010 at 10:38 PM
beth_shulman: (book: meg powers)
     "...who knows? Maybe Clay Grundy will come from nowhere and take a lot of votes.... But Lloyd, and Foster, and McGreer are all getting ready to drop out, I think."
     Not that she watched C-Span - a lot - or, say, checked in on the Washington Post website - often - but that sounded about right.
     Her mother bent to tuck in the blankets, then hugged her, long enough for Meg to feel awkward.
     "You should go rescue Dad from the grumps," Meg said.
     Her mother grinned. "You mean, rescue the grumps from him." She went over to the window, checking to make sure that it was locked, and then closing the curtains.
     "No, don't do that," Meg said. "How will Arthur get in?"
     "I'm sure he'll think of something," her mother said.

From page 52 of my copy
beth_shulman: (book: meg powers)
     A couple of weeks after the divorce, Meg went into Boston with her friend Beth. After the divorce, Beth's father had given her a bunch of charge cards, and she loved to go into the uptight, exclusive stores on Newbury Street, look disreputable enough to irritate salespeople, then whip them out and buy a bunch of stuff she didn't need - or even really want. Meg would often comment that this was extremely nouveau behavior, and Beth would sigh deeply, and say, in a very glum voice, not everyone can be old money. Apparently not, Meg would say, and they would laugh loudly enough for the salespeople to suggest that they think about going elsewhere. Immediately.

Page 29 of my copy

Melina Marchetta

  • Jun. 8th, 2010 at 11:44 PM
beth_shulman: (book: jellicoe road)
‘You’re going to go on living. Because living is the challenge, Josie. Dying is so easy. Sometimes it only takes ten seconds to die. But living? That can take you eighty years and you do something in that time, whether it’s giving birth to a baby or being a housewife or a barrister or a soldier. You’ve accomplished something. To throw that away at such a young age, to have no hope, is the biggest tragedy.’ (Looking for Alibrandi)


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