Am I alone in getting BEA? This stands for Book Ending Anxiety, in case this debilitating condition has so far passed you by.
I have been plagued with BEA for as long as I can remember. As I approach the half way mark of a book, I start to wonder just how the book will end. The protagonist will be wrestling with a knotty moral issue, or a terrible event, or an angry crocodile, and things are looking bleak. I am enjoying it, this bleakness. (Generally speaking, I am quite a fan of bleak. Industrial landscapes, winter weather, the music of the Smiths: I find it all quite uplifting on the whole). So what I dread, as I turn another page and somehow the terrible event is now sparkling with a hint of a silver lining, or the crocodile gets sudden onset lockjaw, is a happy ending. Oh woe! Their relationship has irrevocably broken down and they are destined to be locked in a vicious battle of hatred forever! But wait! He has found one of her toenails that he kept in a small jar in the loft, and it has reminded him of his undying love for her, so now they are reconciled and everything is really sodding perfect. And the crocodile has become their pet and has voluntarily had all his teeth removed. God, I find it all so depressing.
And having spent the past five and a half years reading to my sons is not helping one iota. In fact, it has simply aggravated my condition. Because pretty much ALL of the book endings that we have read so far have been irritatingly, nauseatingly bloody happy. We are on the cusp of something interesting, I feel. If I squint hard, I can see Roald Dahl, like a shimmering mirage of wit and naughtiness. But for books for the under fives, forget it. Heroes get a cheer, mistakes get righted, baddies get chastised. Not even locked up. Not even spanked with a wet fish. Just chastised enough so they see the error of their ways, blush politely and everyone sods off home, hand in hand.
So I am thinking I may have to start an alternative library for sufferers of BEA. It would contain such classics as:
The Tiger who Came to Tea: a tiger comes to tea and scoffs the lot. Mummy buys a large tin of tiger food in case of a return visit, and sure enough, the tiger, recognising a good thing when he sees it and still a bit drunk three days later from drinking daddy’s stash of home brew, comes back. However, with no opposable thumbs, the tin of tiger food proves too much of a challenge to open, so he eats the family instead.
Guess How Much I Love You: “Guess how much I love you?” he said. “Oh, I don’t think I could guess that.” “Not a bloody jot. Nada. Fuck all. Know why Pops? Because you stink of wee and you have freakishly long ears.” Quite a short book, this one. Perfect for bedtime when wine ‘o’ clock is approaching.
The Gruffalo: Mouse tricks the woodland animals into believing in the existence of the Gruffalo, and on seeing the hideous beast himself, manages to hide under a leaf and escape his evil clutches, primarily because he is a tiny mouse and the Gruffalo is a huge, lumbering idiot. However, on leaving his hideout, he is lynched by the militant arm of the Woodland League Against Vermin (founder members: fox, owl and snake) and is savagely killed. Could have a pop-up end page for added impact.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar: On Monday, the caterpillar ate through an apple. Unfortunately, this apple belonged to Mrs Bartholomew-Jones of number 48 who abhors creepy crawlies, so she bludgeoned it to death with last week’s copy of the Radio Times.
Dear Zoo. ‘I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet. They sent me an email that thanked me for my interest in the zoo and their customer service team in Bangalore would respond to my query as soon as possible, and please do not reply to this email as it is an automated account. I am still waiting six weeks later’.
I am sure there are more to add to this list… I will give it some thought when I am feeling a tad less happy…