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  • Sunday, July 09, 2006

    Stella wants to know: DO YOU PEEK?


    Do you peek at the last page of a book . . . ever? Have you ever peeked, just once?

    The wiggle in the tummy, the very bottom of the tummy, or the grimace, or the shiver, may hit around the moment you start to care about a character. Why does this happen? Because you're afraid you're falling in love with someone who will die on you just when you'd like to close the book for the last time and think, "Ah, yes!"

    The wiggle, shiver, whatever nasty sensation you get may just lead to last-page-longing. But the strong, the intellectually sound, the mature, never give in to this weak, self-indulgent urge.

    Some say to peek is to ruin the story. Oh, yeah? A newsflash from this reader: For me, nothing ruins a story like one more example of evil winning over good, the bad guys never getting theirs, and seeing the worthy hopes of heroes and heroines dashed, and sometimes just in the name of making a story "clever."

    Excuse me--screeeeeeeech!--now I feel better.

    Does this mean I got stuck somewhere back with Angelina's Christmas, or whatever I might have been reading when I was a small kid? No, it means I'm still stuck on Angelina's Christmas and read it every year, just as I do The Grinch and Frosty. But I also moved on. I moved on and went bonkers for stories by people who knew/know how to write drama in which the odds are huge but triumph isn't sold out to a need for acceptance and accolades from any particular peer group.

    I should have mentioned, in the first sentence, that I have a major headache:( My mood is "iffy." I watched the final of the World Cup Soccer Tournament, a race in which I didn't have a particular horse, and that caused the headache. For ninety minutes, plus two fifteen minute overtime periods, twenty-two men and some brilliant substitutes went to the mat for the biggest prize in soccer. And at the end of all that what did we have? A 0ne-one tie.

    Only a single team gets to take home the golden thingie so on went the intrepid warriors--fantastic players every one--to a ghastly penalty kick shootout for the prize. For those who don't follow soccer, this means the goalie stands in the goalmouth and goes one-on-one with a player from the opposite team. Then the opposing team's goalie gets his turn against a member of his opposite team, and so on, until the tie is broken because either one of the goalies actually SAVES a goal, or because a player (argh, throw-up time) MISSES a goal, and there are no chances left to catch up.

    Since someone may wonder what the big deal is here, it's incredibly hard to defend against a penalty kick when the kicker has the whole goalmouth to aim for, and he can fake the direction he intends to take, but the goalkeeper has to make up his mind where he thinks the ball will go and dive in that direction. He dives, the ball doesn't go in the direction he dives, and it's curtains folks. What's my beef with this method of deciding a game? I still believe the best should win. For me, at the end of a one-one tie, they should clone the golden thingie and give one to each team because they are both the best.

    Oh, enough, enough, Stella. I did have a point in all this. If I had known that after all the blood, sweat and tears, the fouls, the yellow and red cards--and the absolutely devastating behavior of a man who may well be the best player in the world--the whole enchilada would be awarded on penalty kicks, I wouldn't have watched the match. I really hate having headaches, especially when I have hours of writing ahead of me as I do this evening, so I wish I'd ducked out from the TV when I realized what the end of the "game" would be like.

    Well, that's what I got for being mature; a wiggle in my tummy, a lot of shivers and a rotten headache. It won't happen again because I won't watch another shootout--ever. So forgive me if I've been known to peek at the end of a book. Frequently. I've already learned my lesson about fictional endings that ruin not just one, but sometimes a number of days, and the moment I get an inkling that a writer is sharpening up her pen for the kill, of the wrong character, I'm outa there.

    Whew, I've exhausted myself with all that confession and passion and risk. What risk, you ask? The arrows already coming my way for committing the ultimate reading sin; that risk!

    I asked some questions as I opened this piece. Will you answer? And if you do answer, yay or nay, please explain why?

    Have a wonderful week,

    Stella

    PS I did not read the end of WAR AND PEACE until the end came.
    PPS I never read the end of any book until the end comes when I know/expect the good guys will finish last.

    64 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hello Stella-
    Yes, I do indeed peek!
    Funny that you should bring up the whole issue. I find that as I get older, the less I am able to take too many surprises, especially when I want things to end well for the characters I have come to care about.
    Of course, I know that things will end well even with trials that would break the strongest souls but the tension becomes unbearable! The nature of many films these days - with very few happy endings - is enough to make me wild with the anxiety.
    Yes, I'm a romantic and I want to believe that love WILL conquer all (at least in some of the books that I read).

    9:57 PM  
    Blogger Cbell said...

    I do not peek. You cannot make me. I cannot stand to have the end of the story revealed before it is time.

    I think this camed from the time I was a young and mischevious child and had a day to myself in my home at Christmas. What did I do? I slit all the taped packages and saw everything I was getting for Christmas... and then taped everything back up. Taught me a big, big lesson.

    I don't peek any more.

    10:03 PM  
    Anonymous Ranurgis said...

    Aah, Stella, were you listening to the conversation we had after the French-Brazil game? It didn't really concern that game but the Germany-? quarter-final game in June. The argument didn't end with your benevolent solution of giving both teams a cup but playing on until one of the teams "dropped dead" as one participant in the argument said.

    Soccer is probably one of the few games where two teams can be so evenly matched or shoot so equally badly. BTW, supporters of the winning team drove honking along the street for at least an hour after the game. Since we don't have many French immigrants, it must have been Italy that won.

    Anyway, to your first question: I used to read the endings before I even began the book. I couldn't bear to have the book turn out "badly". After doing that for about 20 years, I realized that romances don't turn out badly however mismatched the couple might be. I must say though, that there are books where I definitely still peek. One such book was the one I'm currently reading "The Prey" by Allison Brennan. But that's a mystery and I just needed to know who in the world knew all these things about the heroine. I'm much like you now. I rarely look at the end of a book if it's more or less a foregone conclusion.

    As for "War and Peace" which I read in the great translation by Constance Garnett, I can't even remember the exact ending though I've also seen one movie version of it 2 or 3 times and a Russian one once. I do have a vague idea. I had a different version before this but it was so dry and stiff--probably the way I'd translate it because I don't have the soul and poetry of a writer--that I despaired of it. What a huge difference the translator made.

    Actually the many classics that I had to read previously were one reason that I used to peek incessantly. In a lot of the literary books, things did end badly, i.e., in a more realistic way. I got to the point where I had to have a happy ending and therefore the peeking.

    To put your mind at ease for peeking, a supersmart person once said that it's ok to see what the ending is and then go ahead and read the book with the ending in mind watching out for clues that the author drops to reach that end. I found a tiny clue in "The Prey" concerning "who" but that didn't answer a profound question of "how" in another mystery of the book. So that didn't work for this book.

    I fear this is not a very cohesive comment. I think I'm jumping from one subject to another. I'll just say that it's late my time (almost 0200) and I'm feeling somewhat rotten to boot. So please forgive my rambling.

    Hope everybody has a happy week.

    10:53 PM  
    Blogger Jay said...

    I'm afraid I lost interest in soccer when Australia was unfairly knocked out. We were SO robbed. Surely at that level they can get fair umps? Pah!

    Anyhow, to the question - no, I don't. I like surprises. I don't like knowing what I'm getting for Christmas, and I certainly don't like knowing how my book ends when I haven't even met the characters yet.

    That said, I only read books with bad endings once. Never again. I don't always get happy endings in life, but in fiction, where I have a choice, there is always a happy ever after.

    11:30 PM  
    Blogger talpianna said...

    I peek sometimes. If I am about to get emotionally invested in a character, or a relationship, sometimes I want to be absolutely sure that the person(s) in question at least SURVIVE to the end of the book.

    And sometimes, if a book is interesting but not totally gripping, after I'm about halfway through I'll skim to the end. Usually I go back and read the whole thing later.

    One time I did it because

    SPOILER ALERT

    in Elizabeth Peters's THE LOVE TALKER, the only available hero seemed to be either the guy I was convinced was the villain, or the heroine's half brother. Turned out he was adopted, so no worries.

    rclbyibx --Recycled by Ibexes, the latest thing in wildlife-driven ecology

    11:40 PM  
    Blogger Pia said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    11:43 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Yes, sometimes I do peek at the end. I tend to look at it from Harry's point of view from "When Harry Met Sally" -- what happens if you in the middle of a great and die? I want to know the ending encase something happens to me.

    Most of the time though I hooked enough just to read to the end. I'm too into the story to jump ahead, but peeking sometimes happens. Sorry :-(

    11:45 PM  
    Blogger Pia said...

    Hi Stella,

    There are times when I do peek. But as tempted as I am, I try not to with the books written by my favorite authors (3 of them are members of the quills).

    I remember the first time that I did peek was when I was about 15 or 16 and the book was The Promise by Danielle Steel. I did that because since the book was coming to an end (I was like at the last 20 pages or so) still the guy did not know that the pretty girl was....I don't want to spoil the book - but, I reeeaaaallly had to know if the guy would find out, because I as the reader knew from the start what he did not. :)

    11:49 PM  
    Blogger DFender said...

    Well of course I peek. I have the patience and willpower of a tsetse fly for cripe's sake.

    When I was 9 I unwrapped all my Christmas gifts that my parents had hidden... including all of my little brother's presents. I thought if I wanted to know then of course he'd wanna know too... right? Oh no, naturally not. The little tattletale... lol. Even though I knew what my presents were it didn't make me any less excited when I received them on Christmas morning.

    Anyway, my point is that, after peeking, I'm confident that my favorite character(s) will survive however, it doesn't at all take away from the rest of story such as how that character survives. THAT would be the best part of the story for me. Overcome, adapt and improvise.

    Thanks Stella... as usual, great blog material.

    Deb

    rmued: Receive mail under every door.

    PS... Go Italia!

    3:30 AM  
    Anonymous Lori of Canada said...

    I have occasionally peeked.... but very rarely. If I do, it means that I am definitely into the characters and have the sneaky suspicion that the book is going to go somewhere that is going to make me cranky or very disappointed... or sometimes even make me cry.

    When that crying is expected, then that is okay. Tiger's Eye by Judy Blume, for example, I knew would make me cry. Some of Judith McNaught's romances have made me cry. Some cries aren't that bad. When I think of movies, My Girl, Beaches, etc., I knew would make me cry and that was okay because that was the type of story I was expecting (and sometimes in the mood for). However, when I go into a movie or a book with certain genre expectations, I am displeased when the author(s) decide to change the convention for the sake of effect. If the end fits with the story and the characters, I can live with it. When it is completely unexpected (or, in my opinion, uncalled for), then I am a cranky reader.

    Casablanca is my fave movie of all time.... and they don't get together in the end. However, for those characters and that movie, that end worked.

    One of the reasons I read romance novels is for the happy ending. I admit it. ;-) I want to see people overcome their obstacles. I watch horror movies for yes, the carnage but also for a similar reason. I want to see people overcome adversity (in some of the least plausible situations possible). I didn't watch Saving Private Ryan, expecting a happily ever after ending.....nor do I read many classics anticipating that ending either.

    Hmm. Where is all this going? I guess if I am peeking it means I am deeply interested in these characters and want to see them happy.

    As for the soccer, I am with you, Stella. I don't normally watch soccer (is anyone surprised that as a Canadian, hockey is my game of choice???Trust me, we can definitely discuss unfair refs at the professional level). However, I did watch yesterday's game and had similar reactions to yours. Part of me wishes I hadn't watched it all.

    Lori M.

    4:10 AM  
    Blogger justine said...

    I only peek if the book is really boring, and I just want to get it over with. I NEVER peek if I am enjoying the book.

    4:21 AM  
    Blogger Nancy J said...

    And here I thought the point of watching World Cup Soccer was to watch a bunch of young sweaty men, men with the stamina to run for 90 minutes.

    I have to peek. I read mostly Romance so I know there will be a happy ending, but I still peek. I know, I need help. Maybe I should have posted as anonymous.

    4:28 AM  
    Blogger Lynn said...

    Yes, I peek.

    I do qualify by saying I don't peek if the book is by an author I read frequently. I'm secure in the knowledge that even if I don't particularly like the ending it will satisfy me. I do peek if I'm sure I know "who dun it" and want to verify. I also peek if the book is one I may not finish (a rarity, but sometimes the book is a disappointment)and want to see if I'm indeed wasting my time.

    Even if I peek in a good book it doesn't ruin the end because I still want to finish the ride and see how it gets there.

    5:20 AM  
    Anonymous AgTigress said...

    I invariably read the last page or two of a book (as well as some pages at or near the beginning and some chosen randomly in the middle) before I will even buy the book!

    I simply don't 'get' the thing about surprises, or not wanting to read 'spoilers'. After all, if the book is good, one is going to read it umpteen times again, and in all those re-readings, one already knows what happens to whom, who committed the murder, whatever. It doesn't spoil the pleasure of reading, does it? A suprise ending is only a surprise the first time.

    5:37 AM  
    Anonymous dani said...

    1. I agree that it wasn't fair that OZ lost.
    2. I will peek if it is boring

    6:16 AM  
    Blogger ColleenInGA said...

    New commenter here... :)

    I peek...lots :) My DH always gets aggravated with me when he sees me flipping to the back. Maybe I'm just a dark soul like Billy Crystal's character in When Harry Met Sally...I need to read the end just in case I die before I finish it :)

    I have to comment on the World Cup too, since my DH has made me sit through tons of games these past weeks. The penalty kicks give me butterflies always and the behavior of the French player made me sad for him b/cse from now on, every time he is mentioned, it will not be his former World Cup win or his career stats that are mentioned first, it will always be the red card in the last seconds of the World Cup Final that they mention. What an awful way to end your career!

    Colleen

    6:30 AM  
    Blogger Emeraldax said...

    Most of the time with romances I don't feel the need to peek - I know they will end up together.

    But there was one romance recently where I peeked. Some friends had recommended this book to me, gushing about how wonderful it was. I started reading it, and was somewhat annoyed by the premise. This wasn't a good sign. This was a really thick book, and it was going to have to be very engrossing if I was going to be able to get through it. Since the back of the book did not give the hero's name, I was having to make guesses as to which of the men parading through the story was the one she'd hook up with. My impatience with guessing games got the better of me, so I peeked into the middle of the book. I happened up on their first love scene. My first thought was "Wait...him? This is the guy she falls for?" Then as I continued reading the love scene, I was not impressed. Finally I went to the last page of the book, just in case this guy had been a mere interlude and she actually fell for someone else. Nope. It was that guy.

    I think it is entirely possible that if I had not peeked, I might have ended up liking the story and the guy might have grown on me. I'll never know, because I am unlikely to ever pick up that book again.

    6:39 AM  
    Blogger Nicole Reising said...

    Being I don't like sad or 'bad' endings... I do peek on occasion. I like happy endings - where the two are together or the hero lives. I totally don't like the book otherwise no matter how well written. And since I've been 'burned' in this area a few times... I have found myself being more careful now. I guess its the woman's fiction group that scares me - they don't have to be 'happy' endings. And I guess some people love this. I read to escape reality though and the last thing I want is to be unhappy when I finish reading a book.

    Cole

    7:10 AM  
    Blogger Emeraldax said...

    It may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but most of the time I heartily agree - I want a happy ending.

    I'll never forget when I was about 10 or 11, Gone With The Wind was coming on TV and my mom encouraged me to watch it, saying it was a wonderful movie. I managed to get through the whole thing, and at the very end, I was completely appalled. I told my mom, "You made me sit through that whole thing and they didn't even end up together?!?!?"

    Nowadays I try to be more appreciative of books or movies as a whole - enjoy the exposition as much as the ending. But I am stubborn sometimes. I know that I would probably love Casablanca, but I have yet to see it because I know they don't end up together.

    It's funny how we change as we get older. My perspective on GWTW now is that I'm glad Rhett walked away. Silly b*#%H didn't deserve him.

    8:08 AM  
    Blogger susanna in alabama said...

    It's very rare that I don't read at least the last page of the book by the time I'm midway through. And I feel absolutely no guilt for it. I read for my pleasure, so why should I care about someone else's rules?

    Sometimes in mysteries I don't want to know "who done it", so I don't delve too far back in those (but I'll still read the last page or partial page). Occasionally I won't read the end of a romance until I get there, for that extra thrill of the revelation. But it's rare. I don't handle tension well. :D If the book is well written, it's going to keep my interest regardless of my knowing the ending.

    The one negative - or positive, depending on your perspective - of reading the end is when it's disappointing and makes you not finish the book, as some others have commented. In a romance, that's most likely to happen for me if the couple don't work everything out until the very last page. I find that I want 3-5 pages at least of denouement. The books that end like this, "'But... but, Matt! I do love you!' They rushed into each other's arms, secure at last in their love. The End." Those make me grind my teeth. I read 300+ pages for this?? I feel cheated!

    More power to those who wait, but I'll never be one on any consistent basis.

    (And, emeraldax... Amen, sister! I've never seen Casablanca for just that reason, nor GWTW in part because Scarlet seemed like someone I would want to slap. Why spend nearly two hours watching someone you want to slap?)

    8:23 AM  
    Blogger Suzanne Simmons said...

    emeraldax, I couldn't agree more about GWTW. It was the first "romance" I ever read--- I was 9 years old and bought a copy at a garage sale. I reread GWTW at 17 and again at 21. My opinions of Melanie, Scarlett and Rhett changed as I got older. By 21, I, too, was glad Rhett walked away. I've never read the book or watched the movie since!

    That said, I have to confess I've never peeked at the ending of a book. Not sure why. Maybe because I'm a Virgo and we tend to be a tad methodical?

    8:28 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I agree with the tigress. Who wants to invest time in a book that doesn't end well. I usually "peek", except when I am so sure I will like the book that I am willing to risk it. I also have no guilt about peeking - I've been doing it for so long that I never developed guilt.

    Marva

    9:05 AM  
    Blogger Karibear said...

    Do I peek... Not so’s anyone would notice, even when I could. I read for the story line, the characters, plot development, escapism [especially escapism, I have quite enough reality in my life] - those don’t necessarily include happy endings, but they do or should have satisfactory endings. The genre type implies what kind of ending there will be: a romance isn’t a romance if the hero and heroine don’t get together sooner or later. A mystery isn’t a mystery unless the villain pays one way or another, and the romantic theme in it may or may not have a successful resolution, but it does have to fit the characters - think of the Elvis Cole novels, or the Butch Karp novels.

    There was a writer of romances that I absolutely loved some years ago [still do, but I think she’s out of print now] who started writing mysteries as well. The romances were extremely funny and well done, and I looked forward to reading all the mysteries I could get my hot little hands on. And the first one - what a disaster! Not only was the romantic element awry [heroine fell for the bad guy - not a ‘Bad Boy’ but the real bad guy], but there was no resolution to the mystery itself. No one got caught, even though she finally discovered it was him, and no one ever paid for the misdeeds in any way. Still well-written, but utterly disappointing.

    The main reason I don’t bother peeking, though, is because it’s the trip from the beginning to the end that’s most interesting. It just doesn’t matter who gets who, but how they finally get together. And the trip IS important. Some of the earlier fantasies I read were more like road maps than stories - ‘go from Point A to Point B on to Point K, while passing through sidestreets C, D, G’ and so on, and they were utterly boring. The trip has to have a destination, it’s not an end in itself.

    Besides, if I don’t like the beginning, I don’t finish it, so why bother peeking?

    9:22 AM  
    Anonymous AgTigress said...

    Just to clarify what I said above, my 'beginning / middle / end' sampling of a new book is not actually concerned with the form of the plot, the details of the story: it is immaterial to me whether or not reading the last couple of pages 'gives away' something about the final resolution. I do the sampling to get a feel for the writer's style and voice, so as to establish whether I am going to enjoy reading 100,000 words or so by that person.

    Reading the last couple of pages may or may not reveal something that the author chose to keep under wraps earlier in the book, but it makes no difference to me, because if I like the way she writes, I'll read the book, probably many times; if not, I won't bother.

    Karibear said: it’s the trip from the beginning to the end that’s most interesting. She gives that as her reason for not reading the ending, but for me, it is one of the reasons for doing the precise opposite! The way an ending is written - regardless of happy-ever-afters or the identity of the villain - is one of the ways by which one can judge the quality and style of the writer.

    9:49 AM  
    Anonymous GarniGal said...

    I always peek. Always. Even in romances, but always in mysteries.

    I have to know not just that the good guys get a reward but also that the bad guy gets punished. It gets me through stressful parts, and lets me enjoy the story fully, instead of rushing through to find out the ending.

    I also read spoilers for TV shows I haven't watched yet. My boyfriend hates that about me. :)

    10:10 AM  
    Blogger Karibear said...

    I still remember the first book I read that made me realize I did NOT have to finish one if I didn't like it. I was about 23, and it was about a man and his dog. I've always preferred for characters to have a pet - dog, cat, bird, whatever. This particular one was supposed to be about rehabbing a failed military K-9, and I had hopes. I read and read, and it was all one scene after another of gore. I kept thinking sooner or later there would BE a story, but there never was. Just a vehicle for scenes of gore. Since that one, I've never felt the least obligation to finish a book that just doesn't do it for me, no matter what the type or subject or how many pages the writer had produced.

    Besides, even if I were a peeking type, it's awfully difficult to find the end of a recorded book... if I really like it, I might even listen to it more than once before I return it.

    10:19 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Yes, ALWAYS read the last chapter first. How will you know if it's any good :)

    Actually, the last chapter will tell you a lot about the book before it, it's a summary of the entire story. So if you're iffy about an author - always read the end.

    Besides, it's not the ending that makes the story. It's the getting there. Which is why you can re-read a book a million times and still enjoy it.

    Can you tell I'm a book-a-holic :)

    11:12 AM  
    Blogger Lisabella said...

    No, I don't peek...I like to go along for the ride. But I finally learned I don't have to finish a book if I'm not having a good time! How liberating!

    Karibear...who is the author of the humorous romances?? I'd like to check them out :)

    Lisa

    12:06 PM  
    Blogger susanna in alabama said...

    Karibear, good point on the audiobooks. I love them, and listen to them all the time. I could peek (play the last side of the last cassette, fast forward to the end of the digital file) but I never do. A peculiarity.

    Another thing I notice about audiobooks is that if I'm listening to one I've read already, almost invariably I'll pick up pieces I missed when reading it. I guess I skim read more than I realize.

    12:51 PM  
    Blogger Lucy Monroe said...

    Um...I even peek when I'm reading romance to make sure the end is not "cheap" and therefore spoiling for me. Knowing the ending does not ruin the book for me at all. A bad ending ruins more than the book, it ruins my day...maybe days. Sigh. Yes, I probably get too involved with the books I read, but it makes me happy. So, really...I'm not about to change. LOL

    But...as I try to explain to my sisters who think I'm nuts because I do this...I read the end to make sure the rest of the book is worth reading. Once an author makes it on my autobuy list, I no longer feel the need to check his or her endings, but prior to that...even the slightest hint the book isn't going to end the way I want will send me zooming to the last page.

    I also go to movieendnings.com before I see a movie that looks to have a quesitonable ending. I admit it, I'm a freak about endings. But for me, it's *not* just the journey along the way, but where they end up that matters. :)

    1:50 PM  
    Anonymous Julie Rowe said...

    I do peek...If the book has lost me or I don't like where the plot is going. I want to know the end so I can decide if I really do want to read the whole thing. I figure it's better than putting the book down and never looking at it again.

    Cheers, Julie Rowe

    1:51 PM  
    Anonymous Ranurgis said...

    I'm one of those compulsive readers: If I've begun the book, by hook or by crook, I'll finish it. And that does waste a lot of time and energy. I can remember two books that I tried to get through as a child and just couldn't and since one was a present and almost everybody in the world loves it, I felt terrible about *not* liking it. It was "Alice in Wonderland". It was so surreal that I just could not read it. I think it spoiled most children's classics for me. I guess I kept thinking they were all like "Alice". I can't remember the name or author of the other book which I tried to read in high school. I don't think it was anybody special but still, it bothered me that I couldn't read that book.

    There are other authors that I just can't read. I don't know what it is about them. So sometimes I've just skimmed through them to get the story. One author I tried in a totally different genre from the first one and the same thing happened. It must somehow be their "voice" that resonates oddly in me. Some of them have been prize-winning authors but for me... I don't know. Does that happen to other people as well? I think there was someone else who did comment on this. Definitely I should do what she does: read some of the actual book before I commit myself to buying an unknown-to-me author. I can in no way afford to waste my money. Problem is, I'm usually in too much of a hurry.

    And I too have found it liberating to allow myself to not finish reading a story or even an article in a magazine or newspaper.

    P.S. I really hate anything too surrealistic like Dali's art, Luis Bunuel's films and the like. Picasso is just on the borderline.

    2:01 PM  
    Blogger Kat said...

    I peek BIG time....It's a bad and a hard habit to break.
    I guess it started when I was seven and discovered where my mom hid all the presents, from there there was never a gift I did not know about...After awhile it got old so I told my mom and she found a new hiding spot...One that I never looked for and to this day, (19 years later) I still don't know where she keeps them.
    With my peeking though, I only read the last paragraph of the book, it was a discipline I had to work hard on but that is it. I discovered if I read the whole last page....or two...I knew who the bad guy was, and what happened...It takes the fun away.
    Of course there have been those few books I have not peeked...WAR AND PEACE, THE DA VINCI CODE, PRIDE AND PREDUJICE, and many other's. I'm not sure the difference between those books and the ones I peek at, but I know that if I had peeked at those above, the book would have been ruined and I would have felt very upset at peeking.

    By the way, it has always confused me that soccer is the ONLY game where one team can lose to another in a one-to-one tie...the idea is moronic. I some-what understand the 'tie-breaker' and ultimate decsion on who wins, but why have a penalty kick off, why not just play until one team scores...they do it in all the other sports...hockey included and to me hockey and soccer are the exact same, but on is on ice and the other is on grass, or dirt...

    hbisnf- Handmaking Butter Is So Not Fun

    2:23 PM  
    Anonymous Ivi said...

    oh yes! i do peek!
    however, it's not because im bored, its bbecause IM TOTALLY HOOKED!
    usually, half way thru the book whem im in the middle of conflict and -of course- dying to know that it ends well...ill just peek the last 1 or 2 pages, just to make sure it ends "happily ever after", then ill go back, and finish it.
    This happens 99% of the time when im in a book reading frenzy, im cannot put the book down and its 4am and i have to go to wwork the next day.... but ill do it any time of the day for that matter.
    I guess i just wanna know everything works out, im too curious.

    btw, if it doesnt or if it ends in any other way other than expected ill still read ahead. it has to be a catastrophically bad ending to make me quit reading.

    cheers!

    2:36 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    It depends on the author. If I already know that the author likes happy endings with the good guys prevailing, then I'm a happy camper and don't peek.

    If it's an unknown author and they are long winded I will peek throughout the book just to see if it gets any better.

    Also, talking about happy endings, is anyone else tired of all the people that have been killed off on "Lost"? Just when I get to really liking a character, they either turn into a bad guy or are killed! I don't think I'm going to watch it anymore. By the way they are killing off people, I don't think they will have any cast left by the end of next season.

    3:27 PM  
    Blogger MomSear said...

    Do I peek? Always, usually before I start the book. Does it ruin it for me? Nope, because if it's a mystery I may not discover the bad guy's identity (that's usually in the second to last chapter)and if it's a romance then I ensure that HEA end that I demand when I'm escaping RL. Beside, I can concentrate more on the important characters - why invest too much of myself if they're being killed off in Chapter 7??
    I've done this since reading Swiss Family Robinson at age 8 - not likely to change my ways now!!

    3:43 PM  
    Anonymous Tammy said...

    LOL Do I peek?

    About half the time yup. Course I also have the habit of opening Christmas gifts early, I HATE not knowing what I'm getting. And yes, I reseal them, so the giver doestn' know I've opened it.

    4:11 PM  
    Blogger Stella said...

    I want to answer every comment... Think of it, afternoon after I made my confession and there hasn't been a single threat. Of course, since I have plenty of company in the peeking department, I feel well supported:)

    Both reading the end because you're bored with the story and reading the end because you love the story and don't want to have a nervous breakdown when it's over are good reasons to peek. I'm not a wuss but life is tenuous and filled with horrible things so when I read I want to feel I won't be cast down by a book. Give me all the scary moments possibly on the journey, and the annoying people you'd like to shut in a room together, give me anything, but not a miserable ending.

    I've probably read most kinds of books that are written and for various reasons. THE HOURS was a great exercise in watching a writer put together fact and fiction with a mysterious thread to pull everything together. It wasn't an uplifting emotional experience. MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA is such a sad story but there's triumph in the rubble and I really care about the characters.

    I must mention Colleen's reaction to the head butt of yesterday during the World Cup Final. Ditto! The tragedy of seeing an incredible career end with such a pointless, streetfighter type of move threw me. I still can't get over it. The player didn't seem to give a second of thought to what he did, there was no facial expression, just wham, his head to the sternum of the other player. Such behavior is truly disturbing.

    Cheers, Stella

    4:13 PM  
    Blogger Stella said...

    On opening Christmas gifts. My brother and I, after being awake all night on Christmas Eve (standard behavior)got up around five in the morning and crept down to the tree where the presents were piled. We opened every one. What happened was like some sort of seizure where you're incapable of doing anything about it.

    By the time my mother arrived, we even had Phil's new teepee (remember this was England and a long time ago)up and were inside eating the fancy chocolates we'd also opened.

    Hoo mama, did we get it! Whatever pleasure we had while doing the deed could not come close to compensating for facing our mother's wrath. Mother's wrath was terrible indeed--I never saw worse. Dum-de-dum-dum.

    Cheers, Stella

    4:18 PM  
    Blogger Amy from Ohio said...

    I am soooooo guilty of this. I'm just so glad that I am not the only one! It is funny that so many people really peek! I do it because if I don't like the ending, I'll stop reading. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a happy ending in anything!

    6:07 PM  
    Blogger Stella said...

    I knew there was at least one other comment I couldn't miss--actually there are many great ones and I'm enjoying them--but Ranurgis mentioned her reaction to Dali.

    We all have these odd little vignettes that remain with us forever. Dali has always been somewhat fearsome for me but I've tried to learn how to deal with his work without wondering if I'm having a nervous breakdown. My final attempt came in Harrods some ten or so years ago when I thought I'd stand in the well-populated book department and look through some art books, including a couple on Dali.

    Visualize slightly nervous (therefore seeming unapproachable I always thought) me with a large book propped open on top of some low stacks. I'd been there a long time and managed not to turn the book to try viewing any paintings from different angles--not once. I simply studied Dali and got more depressed.

    A low voice said, "I see you love Dali as much as I do."

    You'll be proud, I didn't scream. Staring directly at me, on the other side of the same stack and seeming only inches from my face was a saturnine-looking man. Black hair with a gray wing at each temple, gray eyes, thin face.

    I didn't say a word but he walked ponderously around the stack to stand at my side. He launched into his impressions of the painting I'd been looking at, put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Kindred spirits must be treasured. I shall not forget meeting you."

    And he slithered away--in his vicuna overcoat with a camel cashmere scarf tossed carelessly around his neck.

    Ew!

    Stella

    9:33 PM  
    Anonymous Wendy said...

    do I peek at books - yup but I only read the last sentence - why just the last sentence? I have no earthly idea - it just became a habit that I fell into a few years ago. I was concerned that the hero and heroine would not get together and I was too involved in the story to be able to handle it if they didn't. I think it is because it is usually enough info to reassure me that there is a happy ending, but not enough to ruin the happenings before the book is over.

    do I peek at christmas presents? NEVER...my mother always says that when I was a kid, she could pile the unwrapped presents in the middle of the living room floor covered with a sheet and tell me that it was the presents and I still wouldn't look. I still won't - The surprises are the best at christmas.

    10:10 PM  
    Anonymous AgTigress said...

    Stella said: The player didn't seem to give a second of thought to what he did, there was no facial expression, just wham, his head to the sternum of the other player.

    I think it is worth picking up on this, because probably the USA media are paying little attention.
    Since the incident at the end of the match when Zinedine Zidane was red-carded for head-butting a member of the Italian team, more information has been coming out. Zidane had told his agent that he had been unbearably insulted, and this seems to have been confirmed by lip-readers who have studied the film. They agree that 'Zizou' was subjected to a number of vile and racist insults by Marco Materazzi, culminating in being called 'the son of a terrorist whore'.
    Algerian-French Zidane's mother had been taken to hospital, seriously ill, only hours before the match, and it was evidently this insult to her that made him snap.
    Materazzi denies that he said this, but if you look at the film, it is clear that he had been needling the French player repeatedly, and that the latter then quite suddenly lost his cool.
    What I am saying is, however regrettable the behaviour, it does not appear to have been unprovoked.

    3:11 AM  
    Blogger Marianne Arkins said...

    I always, always read the end of a book if it isn't a romance (because those always have a HEA). I refused to read Elizabeth George's latest because of the end ... and there are many others. If the good guy dies, regardless of whether the bad guy gets it, it's not a good ending for me.

    Ever since I was a kid, and got slammed with ending in "Where the Red Fern Grows" and "The Yearling" and "Old Yeller" I check first. I refuse to become invested in a character that dies.

    But that's just me :-)

    3:46 AM  
    Blogger Emeraldax said...

    Stella - that story about the Dali fan was HILARIOUS!!!

    I also had to laugh when I read the story about you opening up all the gifts one Christmas morning. I did the same thing one time! I was about 6 yrs old, and an only child. Woke up early, crept downstairs to open one - just one! By the time my parents came down they were all opened. It makes me cringe now, but I'm glad there is someone else out there that did the same thing.

    5:10 AM  
    Blogger Nancy J said...

    Agtigress,
    I don't think anybody really believes the attack was unprovoked, but a player of this experience should know better in his last game, which also happens to be the last few minutes of second overtime in the final of the World Cup, which will probably go to penalty kicks, of which he happens to be an expert.

    Players talk filth to eachother in almost all sports. I don't approve of it, but it is part of the game.

    6:32 AM  
    Anonymous AgTigress said...

    Nancy J; yes, I take your point, and I am not seeking to excuse an action which marred that game, and also marred Zidane's hitherto stellar reputation almost at the moment of his retirement.
    I have no doubt that insults are traded on a routine basis, including racist taunts, but Zidane took the abuse fairly impassively, and then quite suddenly snapped. According to the current analysis, this was triggered by the insult to his (sick) mother. I think it would be inhuman not to feel some sympathy with his loss of control at that point.
    I don't know why I am defending a footballer, since football seems to me one of the most boring and silly activities ever devised by man, but the way the incident looked on film seemed, as Stella described, as though the man had almost arbitrarily attacked an opponent, and I just wanted to set the record straight - that there is evidence for a very extreme degree of provocation.

    8:08 AM  
    Anonymous Steve C said...

    Stella,

    I peek. I think my knuckles are still smarting from your verbal ruler the last time I did so. But like those comments above, why invest in something which doesn't leave me going Ahhhhhh....*melt* at the end? The world has enough tragedy without yet another disease of the month. I want a clear winner -- and I want that person's ethos to win the day.

    This DID happen in the world cup, by the way. Not so much the good guys won but the villain lost. Best player in the world or no, he still caved to his frustration and belittled himself. He'll regret that for the rest of his life - as well he should. How many people around the world saw him being an arse?

    So yes, Italy won (Steve pauses to wave his own double-consonant-vowel-ending last name). Nyah. My kinda story.

    9:15 AM  
    Blogger Stella said...

    Tigress picks up on the Zidane-Materazzi incident and I'm glad. Certainly there is always trash talk during sports events (isn't that pathetic?) but it does seem that Zidane, who was walking away before Materazzi made another comment, snapped and turned back. There is now little doubt about what Materazzi said. In Zidane's place (hahaha) I wouldn't have head butted the other man but I might have stomped on his toes!

    It's sickening for such an event to become the final picture of a brilliant player but possibly this will fade and people will be more interested in the way he actually plays.

    Um, football (soccer) is the most evolved game I can think of. One of the reasons the game may not appeal to many Americans is because, when played at its very best, the score is low to non-existent. This is a mark of the excellence of the teams. Watching a top notch footballer control, dribble and pass, followed by the interplay, is exciting to many of us. I am awed by an ability to anticipate where another player will be at the moment when a pass arrives.

    Enough of that.

    I can't tell you how tickled I am to be in the company of so many peekers:) But, "hats off" to those with steely control.

    Happy Tuesday,
    Stella

    9:54 AM  
    Blogger cate said...

    I peek when I read a whodunit, when I've figured out who the villian is. Hate to be misdirected.

    I can stop reading a book at any moment. I've never walked out of a movie theater...yet. Though there have been some I should have.

    I went with my husband to see the movie Lake House last night. Still trying to sort through that one.

    11:34 AM  
    Anonymous Louis said...

    I'm one of those that peek...and have since a teenager...many more years ago than I like to remember...over 65.

    I just like to see if I approve the ending...with a satisfactory conclusion.
    The villian got his due...He and She in a satisfactory clinch...HEA.

    Also watched last few minutes of the second overtime in "classic" football. Saw the head butt and kickoff...only soccer watched this year!

    Christmas...Never preopened any gifts.

    Love your books, Stella.

    akxixe red

    a kindness (e)xercised is (e)xceeded eventually

    5:04 PM  
    Blogger Stella said...

    Louis:

    I popped in here at exactly the right moment. Any writer about to go back to work has to be inspired by really kind comments:)

    And I like your concise summation of habits. I still wish I hadn't led the charge to open all those gifts with my brother. We ruined the day for everyone.

    Cheers, Stella

    11:01 PM  
    Blogger Allison Brennan said...

    No, I never peek. If the book is boring, I'll speed read it to get to the end faster just to see what happens, but that's it. No peeking, not even once . . .

    12:26 AM  
    Anonymous Ranurgis said...

    Stella, that was a wonderful story. I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't make much sense out of Dali.

    I'm sure you'd probably have a more lasting reaction to the film by Luis Bunuel (with a tilde over the n). I'm sure the scene is somewhere on the Internet. The film is called "An Andalusian Dog" and is listed on p. 74 of the book "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". It's listed under "Fantasy" at the biginning of the book.

    And Allison, I just finished reading your first book "The Prey". What a clever plot! I'm not a big mystery reader but this was a powerful book. But too many people died. I loved the way you got John and Rowan together. I wouldn't be able to stand being in Rowan's shoes. For a while, it seemed as if someone I knew might be going Bobby's route, just not as nasty but things turned out all right thanks to a clever judge.

    BTW, I did peek. (shame-faced) I'm reading more slowly these days and I just *had* to know who was being so vicious to poor Rowan.

    Thanks for writing it and the 2 others. I wish you continued success in the future.

    10:54 AM  
    Blogger DFender said...

    I agree with Ranurgis about Allison's books (all wonderful) and about Stella's story. So clever. The both of yaz.

    :)
    D

    3:34 PM  
    Blogger Stella said...

    Congratulations on your first book, Alison!

    Stella

    6:25 PM  
    Blogger Ryan said...

    No I never peek. That would be cheating and ruin all the fun! though I will read the front and or flap covers a few times during a read.

    6:01 AM  
    Blogger Kathy K said...

    Oh boy, do I peek! In fact, my family is on my case everytime I start a new book; which is at least daily! I will start a book, read about a chapter, then go to the back and read the end before I can go on. I never really thought about WHY I read the end, but your reason Stella is certainly one of them. Another is that I need to know where the story ends up so that I don't drive myself crazy trying to figure out what's at the end. Although, my oldest daughter, has really, really gotten on my case when she's recommended a book, and I do have to say that sometimes I can read from beginning to end with no detours...but it's certainly not the norm for me. But I'm that way with a lot of things - suspensful movies... "does he die at the end"... "what happens to them".. and so on. Drives my husband and kids (especially kids) NUTS! I haven't got a problem with knowing how a movie ends... I'm usually more comfortable with it if I do know the end... spoilers? Bring 'em on... doesn't spoil anything for me! Nice to know I am not the only one, too... now, I'll just have to let my family in on this fact ~ I'm not the only one, guys! HA.... *grin*
    Thanks for the topic Stella, absolutely loved being able to relate.

    7:46 PM  
    Blogger Beezzez said...

    Oh yeah, big peeker here. I will argue with myself about it and maybe resist for a while, but when I'm really caught up on a story and there is peril or a question I'm dying to know the answer for I admit it, I give in to tempation. I can then RELAX and enjoy how the rest of the story flows.

    8:16 PM  
    Blogger Stella said...

    So glad I've made your life easier, Kathy! I continue to be ridiculed about my "bad" habit by my family. Hah, they will never stop me.

    And beezzez--Relaaaaax, is the operative word. Life is a series of uncertainties, why should we add more?

    Cheers, Stella

    9:21 PM  
    Blogger Devonna said...

    Yes, I admit it. I'm a peeker. I always start a book by reading the last 2-3 pages. I've done it since I was a kid, and I doubt I'll ever outgrow it ~ or that I'll ever want to. I make no apologies for it, although it does drive almost everyone I know crazy. But hey, if the book doesn't end the way I want it to, life is too short to read a bad book.

    10:26 PM  
    Blogger Stella said...

    rj: You have the perfect line for me: ....life is too short to read a bad book!

    Stella

    12:17 PM  
    Blogger Devonna said...

    Stella ~

    It's my personal motto - feel free to spread it around :-). I'm always reading something. I am a chronic reader and always am carrying something with me to read. It's the bain of my family, because I'm the one who will go out to dinner and will pull out a book if I'm completely engrossed and don't want to wait to see what happens. On the flip side, I get teased because I also peek so I know whether the book will be a waste of my time.

    Devonna

    4:03 PM  
    Anonymous Lou said...

    Yes, I definitely peek. When I read a book, I either want to be educated (non-fiction and sometimes fiction) or entertained (fiction and sometimes non-fiction). If I want stories with unhappy endings, all I have to do is walk out and stand on the steet corner (the blessings of living in a city), read the morning newspaper, or watch the talking heads on TV. I read the last page so that I know if I will like the ending (fiction, not non-fiction). I still enjoy the book just as much - because, for me, it's the journey that is so entertaining.

    11:09 AM  

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