Smallhouse Log

Friday, last week of Summer Break

I've been reading a lot lately, and the most recent thing I read -I just finnished- was Maguire's Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. It was a very compelling tale, and I think part of why it was so compelling is that I knew how it would end, and the tension among what I could expect given the story thus far, what I wanted to happen, and what I knew (or thought I knew) must happen grew as the story progressed and I grew to love the characters more and more. It was a very satisfying ending, in that the characters acted true to their character; everyone got what they wanted, or at least avoided what they could not abide; and the fairytale we all know was presented in total, note for note. Maguire realizes what should have been obvious to any cynic looking at the tale with fresh eyes, but never occurred to me: That a beautiful stranger entering a ball unescorted could not escape the attentions of a prince whether she wanted to or not, and that the uses princes have for beautiful young ladies lie predominantly in one specific area.

Which served as a nice twist, but isn't really important to the story being told.

But the aspect of the book that arrested me most is what I describe above, the same desperate tension that I adore in the Norse myths: We know how the story ends, and it doesn't end well for the heroes. Every action is either in service towards or defiance of that eventuality, but come it shall regardless.

How many movies have employed this trope, of showing the climax first, or part of it, and building up to it the rest of the movie? Of course, they so often have a twist, or Deus ex Machina, or unreliable viewpoint, that let them weasel out of their terrible promises and give a neat resolution before the credits roll.

I think that's part of the appeal, for me, of the Terminator franchise: No matter if the Connors and their allies delay it by years or decades, Skynet always awakens. A victory today doesn't solve the problem, it just kicks the can down the road... and quite possible under less capable feet, as likely to kick it back to the Connors as to kick it forward. Note also the fact that John Connor's father is Kyle Reece, sent back in time by John to protect his mother Sarah; which gives the whole story a cyclical feel, an inevitability that nevertheless leaves room for uncertainty, for hope.

I've had a story kicking around my head for years, about Janus, the Latin god of beginnings and endings (and arcades). While it may seem odd to those that know me well, I who despise dualism in every arena, I have always been intrigued by this deity. Perhaps a part of me, the architecture enthusiast who loves arcades (or the videogame enthusiast who loved arcades in their heyday) felt a kinship or obeisance to this figure, the patron of change -in more ways than one, as he is also associated with coins, which plays nicely into the video arcade angle. And it occurs to me that perhaps this technique -of knowing the end before the beginning, and the tension that creates- is the perfect device for a story about a god of beginnings and endings.

Not that I know how the story ends. Up to now it's been mostly a character study.

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