Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Betrayals

Frankly, I was blindsided. 

Like Judas' kiss, it was a betrayal that left me hollow. The shock so complete, I could do no more than mumble incoherent sounds of disbelief and blink. He was dead. She'd killed him with a sentence, at the bottom of page 258. "He was dead," it read. 

The sting of betrayal is never as harsh, as unforgiving and as complete as when it comes from the heart of a well-loved book. As an unapologetic bibliophile that practically breaths the written word, I am not easily beguiled. I can find my way through plot twists, foreshadowing and character double-crosses with the care of the well-read, but everyone drops their guard eventually, inevitably you trust too much. 

Book Sculpture by Su Blackwell.
The pages bleed red. A gasp falls from my lips, my fingers floating above the traitorous words, my eyes questing for syntax that would clarify some error. How do you mourn the loss of someone that is imaginary? Surely a book is nothing to come-apart over; the character isn't really dead, just as he was never really alive. But, just as surely as he made me laugh, he made me cry. This is something deeper than losing a beloved character on the stage or film, and the more frequent deaths on the ever popular television drama. While the character may be dead, the person, the face, who exemplified that persona, lives on - it is only a half-death, a bitter-sweet leaving. 

Book Sculpture by Su Blackwell
Death in literature is whole, the character is completely erased. No more dialogue will appear, transitioned to the past tense. The characters left behind mourn, their world, however fictional, has been scarred by loss. Authors are not only the spinners of tales, wordsmiths forging great escapes into literary lands; they are the keepers of dreams, the view finder of our hearts.

"Trust me," the author says as she tears my books apart, her murderous quill tipped with blood. My fists clench, as I resist the urge to throw my book Benedict against a wall. Books are my escape, my light in dark places, my refuge. I hate when my book worlds go wrong. Authors can not be put on trail for killing off their own character, but they can be coerced, badgered and collectively pushed into fixing it.  As so learned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he executed a spectacular betrayal of Sherlock Holmes readers worldwide.

I will not allow my faith in books, however shaken, to falter. Wearily I will wait, with breath bated, my hand cautiously extended, for the rest of the story. Authors have the ability to raise the dead, to twist even the most real betrayal into a new story with a better ending, not necessarily happier, just better. For deaths are never endings just beginnings in disguise.


  1. 1) It's "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle"... ;)

    2) Nicely done! I knew you would come up with something... :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks for catching that Glenn, spell check failed me ;)

  4. Fran in Texas5/19/11, 9:35 AM

    Oh,this happened to us just very recently. There is an author who wrote a quartet around a specific area, the Shetland Islands off Scotland. The first three books are devoted to showing us a fascinating and specific character, the fourth throws him away and someone else, too. Betrayal is the word.

  5. Isn't betrayal just the word! The author I was reading killed off a main character on the fourth book too! Hmmm, we may have uncovered some sort of conspiracy. I'm going to be wary of all fourth books in series from now on ;)