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The End of Generosity

For tamaranth, as a followup to our Not-the-Clarke-Award discussion, and anyone else who has read Generosity:

Now that I know how tamaranth and R thought Generosity ended, I reread those last two pages. On second examination, I suspect their reading is the one the author intended: a meeting again in the afterlife. It's telegraphed in more than one phrase, lines which I took metaphorically and which should probably be read more literally.

Unhelpfully, the you-can-only-be-happy-when-you-are-dead is THE ending I most hate, as a general rule, in a book or movie. And yet, it is a relief for me to see that this is a viable reading of the ending, compared to the one I ended with. I still would not have been happy with that ending, encountering it the first time; but it's better than my original one.

I read the ending as saying that more-or-less none of the book had happened, that the author had made up the central character. It was a complete betrayal of an ending. It unraveled the whole story for me. It was, however, an ending consistent with the book having an authorially self-conscious framework built into the text itself, if not a nice one at all.

The pivotal lines are these: "And I'm here again, across from the daughter of happiness as I never will be again, in anything but story." And, same paragraph, "She's still alive, my invented friend, just as I conceived her, still uncrushed by the collective need for happier endings."

I read the ending this way: "in anything but story" - the only place he has ever encountered her. "My invented friend" - she never existed in the first place.

But I acknowlege, re-reading it, that the first sentence of the final paragraph, "The time for deciding is after you're dead" is probably meant literally, while I read it with a touch of sarcasm the first time. And I still find my version of the ending hard to escape, so thoroughly has it been the way I understood it.

I keep thinking about the geography of the world of Generosity too, but that's another post.

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Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
tamaranth
Apr. 27th, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
in haste, as about to hie myself to London via shower and frock ...

... I read 'invented friend' as implying that he had created their friendship, as 'creative nonfiction' (which has got him into trouble before).

I also need to reread the ending (tricky, as book's gone back to library!) because I didn't pick up on the 'after you're dead' thing at all. Though I suppose that final meeting could be read as afterlife!
owlfish
Apr. 27th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
Now I really want to know more precisely how you (and possibly R) understood the ending, since apparently I have not quite found your version even on reread if you didn't think it was set in an afterlife!

Also, if he invented their friendship, what part of the book, if any, *did* happen?
nwhyte
Apr. 28th, 2011 06:43 am (UTC)
I read the ending as a skip forward to a meeting in this world, but in a happy future, and was annoyed that we didn't find out how the characters got there. Now that you raise it I can see that the afterlife reading makes at least as much sense.

I was increasingly irritated and annoyed by the persistent reminders throughout the book that the author has made up not just the central character but all of 'em. Totally killed any inclination I might have had to emotionally invest in what was going on.
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