“What the American public always wants is a tragedy with a happy ending.” So wrote William Dean Howell, author and literary critic, to the great American writer Edith Wharton, (“Root and Branch” by Gary Greenberg, Harpers, June 2013, pg86) I had to smile when I read those words as I’d recently received an email from a reader who’d finished my novel, Trompe l’Oeil. Her hope, she wrote, was that I planned a sequel to unite the parted lovers. She had been gentle. A few others were not so kind. They felt cheated.
I understand this desire to see matters settled happily. I share the sentiment and I think it speaks well of our species. We are eager to console those who face heartbreak. A man dies after a long illness and we say to his widow, “he is in a better place.” Or that “he is free of pain, at last.”
Yesterday, a young man on my Facebook page shared that he’d failed a crucial test. He was studying to be an engineer but he couldn’t pass the math exam. He was thinking of dropping out of college. Naturally, I was quick to respond, reminding him that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were college dropouts. He needed to believe that when one door closes, another opens, I said.
I doubt my sentiment lightened his despair, just as I doubt I could ever find words to console someone who’s lost a child, a limb or contracted a fatal disease. Resignation comes from within as a form of letting go. But as Gary Greenberg points out in the article mentioned above, “receptivity isn’t much of a virtue until we know just what we are receiving.” (Ibid pg. 87.) The trick is to know what to look for. A wish to return to the past keeps us stuck. Life knows no way but forward. Sometimes it’s better to take what we’ve learned from our grief and accept it as a new beginning. Trompe l’Oeil points to that truth.
(Courtesy of wordsniper82.wordpress.com)