Beginnings and endings are easy . . .

Well, that just isn't true, is it? It's a line from a movie, and it tends to appear in my head according to some mysterious schedule of its own. Taunting me. Beginnings, sure -- beginnings are fun. They brim with possibility. They can also be terrifying, and terror begets interest. Let me be scared -- let me be anxious -- let me be frozen with fear -- so long as I am not bored.

Endings? I find them impossible. There are two perfect endings:

  1. And they lived happily ever after.
  2. And someone/several someones died in a manner so wrenching that the survivors wished they'd died themselves.

Jane Eyre is a perfect example of No. 1 in its sophisticated form. King Lear would be an example of No. 2. (The contrarian in me suspects that the reverse would also be a defensible theory.)

This is why The Princess Bride is such a perfect book: you get both perfect endings at once. The rest of us are compelled to choose one.