Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Love is a Milk Truck

Ah, the Milk Truck Ending, a demented relation of the Deus Ex Machina. My high school English teacher coined this term, "Milk Truck Ending". Apparently, a kid had written a story in which, right at the end and completely at random, a milk truck ran over all the characters. Nothing's more frustrating than a story with real potential and a milk truck ending. This is what happened with Any Place I Hang My Hat, a 2004 novel by Susan Isaacs. I guess I knew it was chick lit, but a few things led me to perhaps think otherwise. First, the chick in question is on a (feisty and snarky) search for her family roots, not necessarily romance. There was also the heftiness of the book (pushing 400 pages) and the stellar reviews from the Washington Post, Seattle Times, et al. But men are, apparently, the new milk trucks.

Ensconced (far from happily) on MUNI, I reached page 370 out of 379. (Spoilers ahead.) Our heroine was just so close to ending the book single and learning to be happy about it. I said to myself, "if she ends up with a man in these last 9 pages, I will throw up." Well, she didn't only end up with a man, she was engaged to be married, all within those few last pages. (Okay, it was someone she knew, but still...) I didn't throw up, because I'm not able to will myself to actually do so. But I did feel very disappointed. Our chick had endured way too much to be handed such a played-out ending.

We all know that marriage isn't the end to anyone's story, unless you have an unfortunate accident on the dance floor. We know there are other options, but we never see them. I have no problem with people in stories getting married, but marriage is always presented as the only real option. And this is probably why I'm so unclear on what the other options are. I demand to see more options in my pop culture! And if these chicks end up with men, I want (nay, demand!) to see them really choosing between different men. Why is the first man we see almost always the one our heroine ends up with? Is it the cause of brevity, or just another insinuation that any guy is better than none at all? You can probably guess which one I think it is, and brevity probably isn't the reason that 50% of marriages are ending in divorce. That may sound depressing, but our idea of compulsory marriage is depressing indeed. That's why we need to get rid of it ASAP.

Thank goodness Women Who May Never Marry is next on my list...after I define about 20 terms that I can't seem to finish Gender Trouble without knowing, that is...

7 comments:

Bill Beck said...

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DJ Danjerous said...

That always bugs me too, though when you pay attention to it the arbitrary romance in fiction is kinda hilarious. You can't successfully fight back an alien invasion/reform a class of troubled kids/comedically come of age/go on a postmodern odyssey without winding up in some sort of a sexual/romantic sitch.

What's even better is that folks wait until the (usually inconvenient) height of dramatic tension to bring said relationship to fruition. If you're gonna have a first kiss/confess your love/whatevs there are a bunch of really practical reasons to wait until the epic gun battle is over and everyone's good and down from whatever traumatic near-death experiences they just went through. ..

Ily said...

Thank you Bill! And DJ, I totally agree on the hilarious factor. But, I'd love to read a book where it actually WAS hilarious, and not something that's funny because it's way too serious. I think car chases are probably an aphrodisiac...

eowynjedi said...

I absolutely agree with this. Marriage is an even less acceptable ending than being run over by a milk truck--it's not a conclusion, it's a gigantic change in lifestyle. It's also used as a fixit--for example, Princess Whosita has just taken the throne of a kingdom that was destroyed, her court is full of snakes, her people are still miserable and starving after a war... but she gets married at the end, which is supposed to be some sort of assurance that everything will be happy fluffbunnies from now on.

It sounds especially frustrating to read it at the end of a book that had very little to do with romance. Can't authors get a little more creative with their endings?

Ily said...

e_jedi, I recognize you from AVEN! Marriage being a change in lifestyle is an important thing to note. Keep commenting! :-)

Lia said...

Congratulations on your Best of Blog nomination! I'm definitely going to remember to vote :-)
This post reminded me of a modern fairy tale I read once in which the author continued the story of Cinderella to find out what happens after she marries the prince-they actually don't have much in common, as it turns out.

Ily said...

Yay Lia! Thank you! I think I remember that story, a little...