I wrote a little while back about the last 150 pages of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. They were fast and relentless. All of a sudden, I felt as if Larsson’s story had taken me hostage. What I’d thought was an intriguing, engaging, smart, but otherwise unremarkable story, became an enthralling, unpredictable, fascinating romp. The last 150 pages twisted and turned, leaped and bounded, and most notably accelerated, all the way to the finish line.
Now I’m just inside the last 150 pages of Columbine (not counting the appendices, notes, etc.). When I realized that, I couldn’t help but think how different these last 150 pages were bound to be, compared to the last 150 pages of my last book.
I’m not daft. Of course they are entirely different pieces of writing with entirely different goals.
But I can’t help but yearn for the sort of tidy ending that Larsson’s novel afforded me. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo ended, full stop. No doubt, there were loose ends, but nothing too critical was left unanswered. I could imagine the characters’ lives moving on, but the novel was finished.
I want that from Cullen’s Columbine. Up to this point, Cullen has been inside everyone’s head. He has been the killers, their parents, their friends, their victims, their investigators, and others, far more tangential to the story. He has been everyone, everywhere, every moment leading up to, during, and immediately after the Columbine shooting. As I head into the home stretch, I want him to be God. I want him to plow forward, with purpose, to a recognizable and satisfying end.
I know better, though. I can’t expect that, or think it even remotely possible. Cullen may have written the most comprehensive account of one of the most famous crimes committed in American history, but no one will ever be able to end it the way I can’t help but want him to.
Good writers anticipate and answer their readers’ questions. But Cullen has an impossible task. Neither he nor anyone else will ever be able to wrap a tidy bow around this story and call it finished. The pragmatist in me knows this; I only hope that he can convince the fantasist in me not to be disheartened when he doesn’t.