So I’m reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which is brilliant, and each book is preceded by an introduction by some famous fellow. Gene Wolfe, Steven King, Peter Straub, etc. Sort of a who’s who in the world of fantasy and horror, everybody stepping forward to laud the Sandman comics and tell us how much they love them. And, much to my annoyance, each of these luminaries feels the urge to reveal the plot of the very book they’re introducing, usually to make a point, though sometimes, it seems, for the hell of it.
And this latest one has really ticked me off. So I’m on Book 9 out of 10. Right at the end. Things are supposed to be coming to a climatic close, and this Professor who’s introducing the whole thing, Frank McConnell, repeats enthusiastically Peter Straub’s sentiment that if this isn’t literature, nothing is. He then goes on to say this is holy, in that it makes us grateful to be human, etc, etc. All well and good, he’s a fan, I’m a fan, we’re all fans, we’re all on the same bleeding page.
But then? For no reason, and with no warning? Suddenly we get this (and do NOT read the quote below, edited as it is, if you’ve yet to read this series):
“X dies at the end. Sorry to bust your bubble, but this is a tragedy – as classically a tragedy as been written in a long time – so you should know, at the outset, how it’s going to end.”
WTF? I reared back upon reading this, dismayed, angered, furious. Why the *#^& has this guy just gone ahead and ruined the ending of the book, and the whole $&^#(*^ series? With one casual, arrogant sentence, further undercut by his mocking apology, and then delivered cold with his nonsensical justification as to why he’s just ruined it. We should know? We should know how the whole series comes to an end ‘because it’s a tragedy’? WHAT IF WE DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A TRAGEDY? What if we were just enjoying the right, looking forward to finding out what was next, and then this bleeding, arrogant literature professor decided to just ‘burst our bubble’ because it’s a tragedy, so there?
“Or do you want Hamlet, maybe, to realize it was all just a silly mistake, marry Ophelia, and settle down in a nice condo in a really good part of Denmark?” The snide mockery continues unabashed.
“X dies at the end, and part of the wonderfulness of “The Kindly Ones” is the way it makes that death, in the manner of all great tragedy, seem so inevitable and so finally – not too strong a word – enriching.”
At that point I stopped reading, aghast, furious like I said, but saw enough (curse my ability to take in paragraphs at a glance) that he’d gone on to explain the ending, what happened and why, and how it all made sense to him. Now, can anybody, for the love of anything you cherish, explain why an INTRODUCTION gives away the whole damn plot, and then ponders the why’s and wherefore’s of the author’s decision to end it that way? And what’s worse, to do so in such an arrogant, patronizing tone, as if we were kids begging for the whole jar of cookies, and he was being the adult in depriving us of the pleasure?
So now I’ve got several hundred pages of the graphic novel before me and my desire to read it has just completely withered up. There’s no suspense, no more guess work, no pure enjoyment of watching the author develop his plot. No; we’re left with the arid enjoyment of witnessing the ‘inevitable’ nature of the ending manifest itself subtly, or some rot.
And my question is: ok, screw McConnell, he doesn’t know what an Introduction is (which, quite simply, is meant to prepare the reader for the text, give him context, NOT give away the whole damn thing), my question is: why on earth did the designers of this book, the author, the editor, put such a foul introduction before the whole thing? Why not shove it in the back, make it a CONCLUSION?
I’m pissed. I was truly enjoying this series, and now the cat’s out the bag, haha, jokes on you, it’s a T-R-A-G-E-D-Y, are you gonna cry like a little kid, boo-hoo, wanted to enjoy it did you? What a freaking mess. What a waste, what a complete cock up. I’m going to toss aside this book and go to something else, so that when I come back to it someday, at the very least I won’t be seething with anger.