Spoilers: The first shall be the last (page)

I love mystery novels. And I love mystery shows and movies.

I like the game, trying to name the killer before the detective does, or trying to guess the ending before the authors and directors choose to reveal the ending.

I do not cheat. I do not fast forward to the end. I do not seek out spoilers of books or movies I want to read or see. I don’t read the last page first.

But my wife does. And, unfortunately, she’s not alone.

I say “unfortunately” because an artist (writer, director, musician, etc.), generally, has worked painstakingly to produce something that takes the audience on a journey. Is it fair to skip ahead to the end? I’m not a musician, but I imagine Beethoven would want you to hear more of Für Elise than was played in a 1980’s McDonald’s commercial.

Our latest TV addiction is Criminal Minds. It’s a clever show, but it can be a little gruesome for TV.

One night last week, we were watching an episode and the following conversation took place:

Me: “I hope he doesn’t kill the mom while the kid watches.”

Rin: “He won’t.”

Me: “How do you know? You haven’t seen it.”

Rin: “I looked it up on IMDB.”

There she was, sitting on the couch with her iPhone, scouring the Internet Movie Database.

CHEATER!

My wife is not a reader (thus, my surprise when she wanted to write a blog). But when she does read, my wife often reads the last page first.

As an aspiring writer, I was a little shocked when I first learned this about my spouse.

An author writes a book with a journey in mind. She takes you from here to there, revealing what needs to be revealed at the proper time. How can a surprise ending be a surprise when you read the last page first?

But that’s Rin. She’s blunt. She’s to-the-point. Her most common complaint about books: They’re too wordy.

Here’s where it gets confusing. You know that show Columbo? In that show, they actually begin with the murder. You get to see who did it and how he did it. Then you follow Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) as he  unravels the mystery — trying to prove what you already know. You’d think a person like my wife would enjoy a show like Columbo. It’s essentially a “last page first” scenario.

Not Rin. She hates Columbo. Can’t stand Peter Falk.

She also doesn’t like Murder, She Wrote, which happens to be my favorite mystery series. And Angela Lansbury is great! But that’s another story.

If I fall asleep in the middle of a TV show or a movie and miss the ending, I feel cheated.

Some people just like to know the ending beforehand. And some, knowing the ending (because they read the spoilers) will rob themselves of experiencing the ending at all.

My wife’s favorite book and movie of all time is Gone with the Wind. Get this. In this case, she won’t read the end of her favorite book or watch the end of her favorite movie! She always stops reading and watching just before (SPOILER WARNING!) Bonnie Blue dies. She might never know if she’s missing out on Margaret Mitchell’s best writing.

My favorite book of all time is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians). I first read this book in junior high school and I’ve probably read it 20 or more times since. I own the audio book. I own the 194o’s movie. I own the PC game.

Here’s where I share something I’ve never shared before. The first time I read the book, before I knew it would be my favorite book, I actually flipped to the last page. I didn’t necessarily see whodunit, but I did see a character’s name on the last page. Seeing that name, and knowing it survived until the last page of the book, gave me insight that skewed my initial — and arguably, most important — reading of my favorite book. (But if you know the book, you know it’s probably the greatest mystery of all time and you should read it again and again.) Buy it through Amazon or  buy it through Barnes and Noble.

If you are a spoiler junkie and a “last page first” person, I encourage you to change your ways. If you’re truly interested in the piece, don’t cheat yourself. Enjoy it front to back, beginning to end, like the artist intended.

If you’re not going to change, I encourage you to employ some considerations:

  • If you really want to see the movie or read the book, don’t rob yourself of the pleasure by reading the spoilers or reading ahead.
  • If it’s a book or a movie for your kid, and you don’t really care about it, you just want to know it’s okay for your kid — read away!
  • If it’s something in which you have no interest, but everyone’s talking about it — read away!
  • If something is too gruesome for your tastes, feel free — like my wife — to fast-forward through it or read the spoiler to save yourself from an experience you don’t want to have.

2 Replies to “Spoilers: The first shall be the last (page)”

  1. I have been known to read the last page before finishing the book, but only when the book was so boring it hurt me and I still wanted to see how it ended. The Mystery/Thriller genre is my favorite also, but I would disagree about the best book of all time. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers deserves that honor, in my opinion. Because spoilers irk me, I rarely read the reviews on Amazon because some entries insist on writing their synopsis of the book instead of their opinion of it. Big difference. The read itself (the prose, the pace, the intricacy of the weave) is what drives my reading obsession. Best of all scenarios: arriving at the end of a book and wishing it would go on and on and on….

  2. I agree on “the read itself,” and sometimes I wish Agatha Christie would’ve added another 10 people to kill off in the book.

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