Recently, I was listening to an episode of NPR’s “Fresh Air,” in which book reviewer Maureen Corrigan proclaimed a recent book by the British author Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun, to be a “masterpiece.” My ears perked up, because I recognized the author’s name: in fact, I had just picked up one of his previous books and was about four chapters deep.
Without warning, the reviewer compared the new novel to a previous work by the same author—the very book that I had on my nightstand! And then, without warning, the reviewer blurted out a spoiler!
I mean, the novel, Never Let Me Go, was written in 2005, so maybe it’s my own fault for taking so long to read it.
My initial instinct was to throw up my hands: what was the use? Now I knew the mystery that I had been trying to figure out throughout the first four chapters. I would have to abandon the book. The ending was ruined.
But the more I thought about it, the more curious I became: I already knew what happened at the beginning of the story. Now I knew something about the ending, too. But how did the story get from point A to point B? What happened in the middle?
Nicholas Christenfeld, a psychology professor from University of California San Diego researched this very phenomenon: If people read a story, but the ending was “accidentally” revealed to them, they actually enjoyed the story more. So in a way, spoilers don’t ruin the story; they actually enhance them. Christenfeld likened it to driving on the scenic Highway 1 along the coast of California: if you’re already familiar with the road and know what it feels like to drive it, you will actually be able to appreciate the scenery more. I can say that about certain famous paintings like Van Gogh’s “A Starry Night,” or Monet’s Water Lily paintings, too: each time I see them, my familiarity grows; I seem to notice more details each time I look at them.
That night, I picked up Ishiguro’s book again. I read and read and read until my eyes grew heavy and I began dozing off. When I awoke the next morning, I voraciously read more chapters before I even had my coffee.
Now I am working toward the end, the dangling carrot the book reviewer had so tantalizingly set before me. I can’t wait to unravel the story.
Originally published April 5, 2021 on MyHuntleyNews.