Posted by: Kate | February 4, 2008

At Least he Didn’t Throw the TV Across the Room

In 1999, I read the book Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier. Back in the day, I was a voracious reader, and in those particular days Willem was working at a used book store, so I could afford to buy books as well as visiting the library every other week. This was one of the purchased items, and I’m glad only because I’d have felt horrible treating a library book the way this one ended up.

According to, the book is 464 pages long. If so, then I actively enjoyed the first 462 pages; well-written, captured the personalities and the circumstances of the characters and the general political and social tone of the time, vividly and believably. The first ending was not a happy one, but it seemed realistic and just.

Then there was the epilogue. Just a few little pages, set some time after the big ending, a little peek into the future of those characters that survived. And it contained a detail, a made-for-Hollywood surprise that was so fake and jarring and canned, after all that intensity and gloom, that it seemed as though someone had pasted the last few pages of a cheesy romance novel into the end of a literary and psychological portrayal of a complicated relationship.

I was so mad, so disgusted with this smarmy attempt to throw in a happily-ever-after at the end of a story that didn’t need one, that I literally threw the book across the room.

This is not characteristic for me. One, I’m not prone to tantrums, particularly not of the throwing kind; if I’m really angry, I’ll take you apart with words and sharp little stabs of logic, I won’t throw things or shout. And two, I revere books. I don’t read as much, now, as I used to, but I still consider a book to be a sanctified item, something to be treated with care and respect, even if I disagree with the views encased inside. Someone took the time to tell a story or explain a thought, and if I don’t like the words, I can close the book and place it gently to the side.

I’d never thrown a book across the room before, and I’ve never done it since (this is probably a good thing for Willem’s heart rate). But I felt betrayed and disappointed at the outcome, at the fact that it just didn’t end like it was supposed to.

Willem had a similar reaction last night, after Ye Olde Superbowle. He’s a rabid football fan, belonging to several million fantasy leagues and watching every moment that they’ll deign to air on television, frantically flipping from one game to another when they have the audacity to play commercials. He’s not a fan of any one team, he just enjoys watching the organized chaos and controlled violence, in any way he can get it.

I josh him about it at times, but the reality is, I couldn’t care less about football. I don’t dislike it, and I don’t mind that he watches it, but I just don’t care about the outcomes. Large men will play a game that involves physical contact and arbitrary rules, for salaries that are larger than your average block of houses costs in New Hampshire, and meanwhile children go without food and medical care. The rules off the field are arbitrary, too, I think.

So he watches it, when he can, and I ignore it, when I can, and we’re both happy. I pay just enough attention to sports news to have something to chat with the sports fans I encounter at work, a habit developed back in the IBM days and still helpful now. I knew about the Patriots’ undefeated season, as a general concept, and you can be sure that the man who listens to eight hours of sports podcasts a week knew about it in tiny, excruciating detail.

And then they lost. And he was angry. Not because he’s a Patriots fan mourning the disgrace of his beloved icons, but because the story didn’t end the way it was supposed to. You get a perfect season, you get a Superbowl win; it’s just that simple.

He was able to maintain a calm and socially appropriate demeanor as our guests filed out, bearing with them leftover chicken wings and Chewy Gooeys and shaking their heads bemusedly. And then he growled and complained and generally worked through his ire at the randomness and arbitrariness of it all. “Any given Sunday,” indeed, because there is something less team-oriented and more random-and-individualistic about the final score of football games as opposed to, say, hockey and baseball. I felt his pain, and was grateful he didn’t have the television set in his lap at the time. He’d have Cold-Mountained it, and who could blame him? He was a man betrayed.

To top it all off, they never did bother airing the Pepsi ad I was watching for. (YouTube has it <a href=””>here</a&gt;).  Good thing I had margaritas on-hand, instead.



  1. For those who’ve read it, I didn’t want to go entirely spoiler-crazy (I know, the book had been out for ten years… still, after my mother-in-law ruined “The Sixth Sense” for us in 2000, I’m a touch over-conscious of the possibility)… but the thing about “Cold Mountain” that made me insane was the pregnancy at the end.

    Really? We really needed that? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for babies and cuteness, but it was just so wrong for that book. So pointless. Ugh.

  2. Steve enjoyed the ending of the game, being from NYC I guess it should be expected but I would have enjoyed seeing history made. As for the commercials there didn’ seem to be anything great either. I think this Superbowl was tainted this year, since it was at my own backdoor and made getting around town and doing things we had planned nearly impossible…I was praying for that huge rainstorm they kept forecasting to hit with a vengence. BTW it hit just after midnight and at 3am it was pouring BIG time…DAMN!

  3. I forgot to tell you I never made it to hop the “velvet rope” and snap Paris Hilton’s bra strap as so wonderfully suggested the reason why…
    She doesn’t seem to be fond of wearing undergarments very often so I thought it would probably be a waste of time, I’d just pinch her boney spine (at least the area where a spine should be.)

  4. I enjoy football somewhat, but I also keep my laptop in the den, so I can occupy myself while the hubby watches. He was dancing a jig last night (he really wanted the Giants to win). That being said, I totally know that WTF? feeling of reading a book and having a crummy ending. It’s weird because almost everything I read ends up being “not what I expected”, so I’m disappointed. Doesn’t stop me from picking up the next book, though. 🙂

  5. Well, this is a very different story. It was, actually a pretty powerful alternative narrative. My family was actually hoping for this story, so it was a festive end to our evening.

    I have finally, finally, finally gotten to the point that I can stop reading a book that’s not going well for me. When it’s a bad ending, though, you’ve invested all of that. Ugh.

  6. Haha . . I too am ambivolent about football of any code. I watch the Super Bowl for the entertainment and the ads. Actually, I didn’t watch it but it was on in the Dentist’s surgery! Hope the margaritas soothed the savage beast!

  7. OMG! I threw that book too – I’ve thrown 3 books in my life – my college Physics book, The Horse Whisperer – and Cold Mountain. The ending pissed me off too. however – I got angry so much earlier on – I mean, he traveled ALL that way and I’d read the entire thing hoping for him only to see him die? I was just pissed off.

    I’m sorry for the Patriots not winning – but, the Giants played a much better game. I felt like the Patriots weren’t really there.

  8. Darce dropped a sympathy card off to his brother today with an offer of, “whatever we can do to help you get through this loss…” He called at suppertime and asked for a case of beer!

  9. I suggested we just DVR the game and fast forward through all that silly football stuff & just watch the commercials. Turns out The Man wanted to watch the game, but he was kind enough to call me when a good commercial came on & rewind it so I could watch. I got to watch all the commercials football free on MSNBC this morning.

    The only book I recall ever throwing was Cohen’s tome on statistical power when I was preparing my dissertation proposal. No spoilers there, but it’s not engaging reading either. Then again, Willem might enjoy it.

  10. I have never seen B get excited about football, but he jumped up off the couch, did a little dance, and smiled for hours. Weird. I felt bad for the Pats, but it was a good game.

    I did notice they left out the commercial, too. What a bummer. I hope they play it on regular tv or something to make up for leaving it off the big game.

  11. Actually, the commercial was during the PREGAME.

    Which I totally didn’t realize until after the game and I looked it up. I had been watching for it, too.

    I was very saddened by the Patriot’s loss, which surprised me because I’m not really that invested in football AT ALL. However, I got amazingly into it during the game, to the point of screaming and yelling and cheering and flopping about on the couch.

    Not a sound was made during the last 30 seconds of game time at the party I was at. Not. One. Peep.

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