Ending It All
We Americans sure love our endings. For as many as we’ve endured lately, it’s a wonder that we manage to function at all.
Earlier this year, I read Jane Leavy’s biography of Mickey Mantle, and though it was a fine read, its title was a bit overreaching:
The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the end of America’s Childhood
If Mickey Mantle was really the last boy, then I want to know who the heck’s responsible for the trail of Legos that lodged into the skin of my big toe last week. And as for the end of America’s Childhood? I gotta believe that our Union and Confederate soldiers conveyed that sentiment 150 years ago.
But we like endings. Endings sell books, and publishers have taken note. Type in “the end of” at Amazon.com, and you’ll get a whopping 7700 titles in non-fiction alone.
Endings are occurring all over the place, and they’re starting to make me just a little anxious.
America’s aristocracy? Gone.
Gender? Sorry, that’s done too.
Romance? Yep, finito.
And I think the Occupy Wall-Street movement would be disappointed to learn that Wall-Street, has in fact, already ended. My kids will be happy to hear that anger is no longer, but not so happy to learn about the end of youth. Our friends across the Atlantic will be distraught to hear about the end of the European Dream, though I suspect a few might get a sadistic chuckle over the end of France. Our troops will likely be furious to read about the end of Iraq, but I think we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief to learn about the end of old politics.
Now if we could only put an end to new politics.
And what about this title: The End of Modern History in the Middle East. Isn’t modern history an oxymoron? And if not, doesn’t all modern history have to come to an end, inasmuch as it becomes recent history or ancient history?
Now, some endings make sense. The decade of the sixties, for instance, did in fact end. But did it really have anything to do with the Rolling Stones’ concert at Altamont, or was it more due to…I don’t know, the calendar changing to 1970?
Don Henley once sang about the end of the innocence. But we’ve lost our innocence so many times by now, I’m starting to feel a little dirty. And did it really have anything to do with Disney? Or was it because of the Kennedy Assassination? Or Watergate? Or Vietnam. Or…Mickey Mantle?
This whole idea that America’s purity was soiled in the 60s and 70s has been exploited countless times, but bittersweet nostalgia still sells books - at least ebooks - to a generation that believes America’s best years are behind us.
I for one would like to propose a new rule: an end to books with the word end in them. That is, unless the title is, The End of Milwaukee’s Wait for a World Series Title. I’m hoping for that book in 2012.