Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood
This is one of my favourites by Atwood. A brilliant example of the power of simplicity in plot, structure and style.
The story contains six mini plots, each detailing a sexual relationship that concludes with a death. Atwood presents these hypothetical relationships almost as if they were on a menu: would you prefer to order a dish where both characters live happily ever after, one in which the female lead dies horribly or one where everyone ends up unbelievably miserable?
Each featured character is cliched in the most beautifully absorbing way, similarly to those in a soap opera or teen drama. You are thrown into a world of avoidable blunders, unreserved narcissism and hyperbolic evil, and I always find this type of innutritious fiction so utterly addictive. It was completely captivating to encounter so many melodramatic scenarios within such a short amount of words.
And this is entirely Atwood’s objective for the story. She is demonstrating the thrill of the new and the joy of an unknown beginning. Each paragraph is like a delicious appetizer and I couldn’t help but gobble them all down.
The fact that someone always dies at the end of these mini stories isn’t meant to be morbid or depressing, it’s just an end to the story. And if you feel a little bit sad about it you won’t be for too long because along comes another little story to take its place. People and their crises matter only momentarily, and although this sentiment could be taken negatively I personally see it is a joyful thing. Any pain that you suffer is a mere blip in the grand scheme of things as no matter how you decide to look at it, another person or problem is going to come along and take your place anyway.
I fell in love with a couple of lines near the end of the story:
So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun. True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it’s the hardest to do anything with.
Now, I don’t particularly want to smother this blog post in cliches, but life really is about the journey and not the destination. The destination sounds fairly horrible to me anyway.
It’s life-affirming, smart and really uplifting…and will take you about five seconds to get through. In an age where everything is all go go go (or stop stop stop if you have a cold) you can’t go wrong with a mini dose of Atwood.