I submit to you, dear reader, a crude pencil drawing, with some digital enhancements, of the climactic scene of Beatrice & Virgil. Avert your gaze, or even click away if need be. And if the image seems ridiculous, it’s working.
The image, though unpolished, is accurate. Perhaps uselessly so. Yann Martel’s thoughtful exploration of the possibilities of a holocaust fiction is mostly quiet. It is a civil discussion over hors d’oeuvres and amidst taxidermy. Two writers meet to discuss a play. They drink coffee. Suspense is maintained, albeit at a low background hum. Stories have an arc and this one ends with the revelation of a hidden identity. Not enough, apparently. Out comes the knife! The mysterious play-writing taxidermist, in the evil glory of his freshly-revealed true-identity nearly shouts, “I’ll give this book an ending if it’s the last thing I do!” Blood is spat on to the hood of a car, a life hangs in the balance, women scream, a shop burns, a man consigns his own life to the flames, the first-person narrator miraculously lives to tell the tale.
Is this an intentionally contrived ending, nodding at the mass-market logic that writers internalize after too many difficult discussions with their publishers? Or simply a convenient way to wrap up a story that was never really about a story but about an imaginary book–or a real failure of a book–which would produce a piece of holocaust writing that would break free of the shackles of realism, even the shackles of genre. I don’t know. But this ending is pure comedy. And I think I may add some pencil crayon to that picture.
Your task, dear reader, is to draw a picture of the climax of any text. Provide a short explanatory note if necessary.
For an alternative assignment, feel free to submit anything else on this book in particular.