Mr Bradley and the murderous book club
If you happen to be in the LA sprawl this weekend, come on out to West Hollywood for the WeHo book festival. I’m doing two events on Sunday, an interview at 1:15 and a panel on spirituality and fiction at 3:45.
We’ve started a new feature over at the LRK online book club this month, “the Writer as Reader” when I—the writer side of the equation—get to wallow in self-importance and talk about a book I’ve loved. And because I am a writer, and a moderately well-known one at that, if I ask the author of that book to join in the discussion, there’s a chance he or she will say yes.
As Alan Bradley did. This month the VBC has been reading his fabulous novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Because I was occupied with my trip to England, we’re only now getting into the end-of-month discussion with Alan, but it’s been worth the wait:
I have to admit that I, too, prefer the ambiguous ending, or at least an ending that leaves something to the reader’s capable imagination. Storytelling, I think, works best when it’s a 50/50 proposition; when the reader brings as much to the undertaking (especially in a murder mystery) as does the author.
I’ve sometimes cited as an example, the ending of “The Remains of the Day”, in which two aging characters, each filled with unexpressed love for the other, go their separate ways in the rain. The scene seems filled with despair and hopelessness – or with joy and promise. But which is it to be?
Only the reader can decide. And if the reader cannot, or will not, then the story must be left forever unresolved. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you’ve fallen for the charms of the novel, or if you’re concerned with the safety of those in Flavia de Luce’s small English village, please drop in and see what the VBC members have been saying, and what Alan Bradley has to say in response.