Thursday, March 02, 2006

Good art, bad art, and ugly journalists

Here from yesterday's Guardian is some news-that's-not-news wrapped up in an insult:

A truth which has the downside of keeping many true artists poor in garrets and many false ones rich in mansions was universally acknowledged yesterday.

It is that most of us crave overwhelmingly a happy ending to a novel; and that Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice - in which Elizabeth and Mr Darcy ride off to Pemberley in the sunset and live happily ever after - is our runaway favourite of a perfect ending.

This truth was confirmed by a poll of public taste to mark today's World Book Day. Nearly 27% cited the ending of Pride and Prejudice. The second favourite, Harper Lee's modern classic To Kill A Mockingbird, about liberal attitudes to race and handicap, drew 12%....

Forty-one per cent are overwhelmingly in favour of books with a happy ending, as against 2.2% who like it sad.

It's not exactly news that people prefer novels with happy endings. Not when over half of all paperback books sold in the U.S. are romance novels. But take another look at that opening paragraph. Apparently, one can spot a "true artist" by examining the ending of her novel. Is it happy? Then she's a hack. Sad? Then she's doomed to starve in a garret, her genius unrecognized by the ignorant masses who believe a fluffy, feel-good novel like Pride and Prejudice is True Art.

Makes me wonder if the guy who wrote this silly article has a novel that's selling poorly.


Mirtika said...

I like happy endings and I am not ashamed to say it.

In fact, I think we're wired to like them. I think it's genetic. We want to survive and thrive, Darwin-wise. And we want to end gloriously, religion-wise. And we heard so many fairy tales growing up, sociologically, it's part of the story-thinking-pattern.

I would have thought more than 40-something would want a happy ending, frankly.

Mir--gimme joy, gimme joy joy joy

Neal said...

Insult or no insult (I think I agree with you on that one BTW), that first paragraph is just so much rubbish anyway. Or does everyone who ever embark on reading a novel know whether the ending is happy or not? I've just re-read Breakfast at Tiffany's. I'll say that again: re-read. It's only about 7 years since I last read it. I couldn't remember whether it had a happy ending or not. (I won't spoil it by telling you here.)

I read Tess of the D'Urbervilles this summer. It's one of the most affecting, moving, saddest books I've ever read in my life, and I loved every moment of it.

Whether I'd claim to prefer happy or sad endings has absolutely no bearing on my choice of reading material. If it was all down to what people say they prefer, then a sad ending would never be successful.

The Guardian does publish some rubbish!

Brenda Coulter said...

So you fell hard for Tess the milkmaid, did you, Neal? ;-)

If you want to be assured of a happy ending, my friend, pick up a romance novel. ;-)