How it Ended is a book of short stories by Jay McInerney. By the end of the first story, I was hooked on this author’s writing style, and asking myself, does anyone know how anything ends?
The first story is called It’s 6 A.M. Do You Know Where You Are? The author makes an interesting point in this story about how hours go missing when you are out on the town, specifically between 2 and 6am. I remember this from when I used to get out and about, (back when the dinosaurs walked the earth, if either Honey-Bunny or Miss S are reading). Nobody knows where that time goes, including the unnamed narrator of this story. Anyway, the narrator and his friend have been out all night, only having one drink in each place they go because they are terrified of missing out on having more fun somewhere else. The narrator is the sort of person who always wants something else, other than what he already has, which seems a sad way to live a life.
Next was a story called Smoke. The moral of this story (if there is one) is that giving up smoking is difficult, and while you are giving up, you will be aggro with your partner and more likely to cheat on them with someone who will give you a ciggie. I’m always glad I never took up smoking.
Invisible Fences is a story where the lesson is for people whose relationships are broken – sometimes a divorce is best. Another story about a transsexual prostitute encountering his own father as a potential client in The Queen and I was enough to make me cringe.
Simple Gifts had a feel of that fantastic story where the woman sells her hair to buy her husband a chain for his watch, and he sells his watch to buy a comb for her hair.
Around the middle of the book, I started to feel a bit jaded with characters who were struggling with misery and emotional pain. All of the narrators until then were male, and had fairly similar outlooks. Sex with lots of different women is important to them, as is drinking and drugs. Quite a few were writers, there were a few stories with political themes, but the one thing they had in common was that these blokes all found being monogamous impossible.
At this point, I really wanted to tell Jay McInerney that not all stories need to have a sad ending. I’m not a child, I know that happy ever after only happens in fairy stories, but wow, leave me with some hope can’t you? Then I thought about this a little more. Not just about how his stories end, but questioning if there can be a story at all if nothing sad, adverse or disappointing happens. I’m answering my own question here with; probably not. So then, my next question is, as a reader, does this mean I’m the sort of person who preys on and enjoys other people’s misery, for my own entertainment? Well, again, probably not, but only because of a technicality; these are made up stories, with characters who are not real. Hmmm.
So with a different outlook I kept reading, and enjoyed the rest of the stories in the collection, including a few stories told by female characters, who were every bit as disfunctional as the male narrators in the other stories.
Funnily enough, my favourite stories were both told by female narrators. These were Summary Judgement, a story about a woman on the hustle for a rich husband, and The Debutante’s Return, where a young woman returns to her home town to look after her ageing mother.
Despite the plethora of sad-sack, discontented characters who mess up their lives in stupid, stupid ways, I enjoyed How it Ended and am looking forward to reading a full length novel by Jay McInerney.