We were seated at the feet of the Great Writer who at 37 already had three novels published, the latest of which had just won the Booker Prize as it was then known.
“I will tell you a secret,” he said. “one which is not really a secret. It has been known for millennia but it has been largely overlooked and forgotten. Aristotle first taught it in his ‘Poetics.’. It is the principle of Endings. “
We leant forward. I had my notebook ready. “The ending,” he said, “is written in the beginning. There should be only one way a story can end. The challenge for any writer is to surprise the audience with the inevitability of everything that happens. There is no such thing as alternative endings. I repeat, there is only one way a story can end.”
do you agree with that? Is there only one way to end a story?
can you think of a story — fairy tale, parable, short story, film — that could have ended in a way different to how it did?
have you read Salman Rushdie’s Booker prize winning novel, ‘Midnight’s Children’?
I’ve got a poem for you, a very short one, he promised with a garrulous grin, and then, in a long-winded introduction in which all the masters of brevity were cited, he proceeded to demolish the very notion of shortness. The poem took ten seconds, the intro five minutes.
I do not much like her novels.
They are crammed with characters like clowns jammed in jalopies.
But I like her epilogues.
They are lean and succinct, sinewy.
A bit like you, Bev says with a chuckle.
I may not have a novel in me but I have a draw full of epilogues.
And when push comes to shove I can pump out prologues at the drop of a hat.
It’s the in-between bits I’m not good at.
I could leave them to someone else.
Jilly Cooper, for instance.
“I have never read Jane Austen.”
“Emily Bronte and Jean Rhys but
never Jane Austen.”
“You should be ashamed of yourself,”
So I hung my head in shame and kept on
not reading Jane Austen.
You’re my Oxycontin
My Iron Jack
My slug of Scotch
My Gin & Tonic
My second glass of red
My six-pack of beer
My magic board that surfs over anxiety & tedium
Just the thing for a long flight
my paperback of Tim Winton’s ‘Breath’
Is it any good pleading? Thompson says.
For your life? Not really.
But you can’t just toss me aside like a dog carcass, not after all I’ve done for you.
You were more than serviceable, W admits. But you’ve served your purpose. You can’t argue with me.
Will it be painless?
Well, get it over with then.
One minute, W says.
He reaches into his satchel and pulls out his laptop.
Finish your drink, W says. Out with the old and in with the new, he smiles, keyboarding fiercely.
And with that, Thompson is gone.
The vivacity of verbs
The hulk of hard nouns
The ribaldry and racket of the non-standard
The irruption of oddities
The salty tang of sentences
A strange brew of language
Found from ‘Trainspotting’ to ‘A Clockwork Orange’
To the poetry and plays
of C J Dennis.