Tuesday, April 6, 2010

James Hynes

From James Hynes' brief Q & A with Gregory Cowles at the New York Times:

“Next” has an amazing ending, which keeps us guessing until the last page. In their reviews for The Times, Janet Maslin and Claire Messud both allude to it without giving anything away. But in the age of spoilers on the Internet, how can you keep the ending secret from readers determined to track it down?

The short answer is, you probably can’t. The day after Janet Maslin’s review of the book ran, I checked the traffic on my Web site, and Google Analytics told me that out of all the search terms that led people to the site, two-thirds of them were variations on “James Hynes Next spoilers.” Not to give anybody any ideas or anything. Spoilers have always been with us, of course: years ago, I was waiting in line for the opening night of “The Empire Strikes Back,” and some jackass leaving the previous showing — I still don’t know if he did it deliberately, or he was just excited — blurted out “Darth Vader is Luke’s father!” It’s just that now, of course, you don’t have to wait for serendipity to happen, you can go looking for somebody to ruin it for you. And I’m no better than anybody else: a friend of mine e-mailed me about a recent film that has a similar ending to my book’s, but she wouldn’t tell me what it was, and in 30 seconds, I was reading the ending on the Internet. The best I can do to discourage people is leave you with this parable from my favorite Peanuts cartoon: it’s a Sunday strip, and Charlie Brown is watching TV. Lucy comes up behind him and says, “What are you watching?” And Charlie Brown says, “ ‘Citizen Kane.’ I’ve never seen it before.” Lucy waits a few excruciating panels, savoring the moment. Then she says, “Rosebud was his sled,” and walks away, and Charlie Brown goes (what else?), “Aaaaaggghhh!” This exquisitely agonizing scenario encapsulates the entirety of the spoiler experience: it’s awful when it happens, but it’s probably inevitable. All you can do is ask yourself, would you rather be Lucy or Charlie Brown? Not much of a choice, I grant you, but wouldn’t you prefer at least the hope of pleasure to the cheap and fleeting satisfactions of meanness? (And to your readers who have never seen “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Citizen Kane,” my profound apologies.)
Read the complete Q & A.

Read an excerpt from Next, and learn more about the book and author at James Hynes's website and blog.

Hynes is the author of The Lecturer’s Tale, Wild Colonial Boy, Publish & Perish (all New York Times Notable Books of the Year), and the novel Kings of Infinite Space. He lives in Austin, Texas.

The Page 69 Test: Next.

--Marshal Zeringue