Friday, March 07, 2008

Plot Spoiler Follows

I'm currently reading No god but God by Reza Aslan. It's another one of Andrew's textbooks. He is so erudite when he talks politics and Islamic history. I am pitifully ignorant in these topics and am trying to catch reading his textbooks. After all, if we do end up moving out to the Middle East for an extended period of time it would probably be helpful to have a more well-rounded understanding of their culture so that I don't have to learn everything firsthand.

Learning things firsthand can be extremely painful and difficult.

Secondhand knowledge is perfect for developing a background on a subject, which is what I'm kind of doing. I'm still so far behind Andrew I fear I will never catch up, which I think is alright. Our household doesn't really need two Middle East history buffs, right?

We were discussing this book as we were getting ready for bed last night and I posed the rather benighted question of,

"So, why do they [Muslims] still care about Mecca?"

I'm only in chapter three, obviously.

"Because it has the ka'ba," Andrew answered, looking at me like I wasn't the same person who followed him out to live in the Middle East just a few months after our marriage.

"I know," and I did know that, but I didn't know the history surrounding it, "but didn't the prophet Muhammad denounce it?"

Andrew sighed a big sigh.

Sheesh. I'm only in chapter three, I tell you, give me a break! We can't all be MESA majors!

"He did," he told me, a little exasperated, "But then they go back to Mecca and he casts out all the idols and makes it holy."

He then sighed dramatically again and added sardonically, "And now I've ruined the whole story for you!"

Admittedly, the book is well written. Aslan flows easily between narrative and academic language. It's been a pleasant read thus far, but I'm not sure I would describe it as a gripping tale, not exactly. Furthermore, I don't think squishing decades of history into one sentence really qualifies as a "plot spoiler." It is history, after all.

Then again, I don't mind a spoiled plot. If every book I read, every movie I watched, every moment in my life I've wondered about, had been "spoiled" for me, I think I would still be a happy person. I am one to skip to the end of the book just to make sure things turn out alright before I continue; I constantly talk through movies, pressing Andrew for information even if he hasn't seen it before himself; and I really, really, really just want that letter from grad school so we know what we'll be doing with the next few years of our life. I just like to be well-informed, I guess.

Other people aren't so keen on knowing what's going on. Andrew lives with my curiosity, at times feeding the fire by refusing to give away a plot and forbidding me to flip to the end of the book or look up the movie plot on Wikipedia. Other times he gives in and quenches the fire, as he did last night. He doesn't really like to know a storyline before he gets into a movie or book though, and often finds himself having to plug his ears and hum if my mom happens to want to give me the rundown on the newest Bollywood flick.

I guess I just focus better if I know what's going to happen and he focuses better if he doesn't.

Anyway, our conversation last night brought me back to a time long ago in a land far, far away. In fact, it took me right back into the Basic Reading classroom of the English Wing of a small Elementary school in Voronezh, Russia.

Back: Michelle, Staci, Me, Emily, Esther
Front: Tiffany, Michelle, Natalie, Bethany, Stephanie

When class was not in session, either before school or when Olga and Sveta were setting out our lunch, the Basic Reading classroom was one of our places of sanctuary. It was there that we would finalize our lesson plans, type drafts of emails on the ancient computers (if we dared risk turning them on), and discuss the novels that we had been passing around.

On this particular day, I was discussing The Nanny Diaries with Emily, I believe, and several other teachers were in the room. Esther heard me begin to retell the part where "the little boy almost dies" and she surprised me by whirling around and telling me to stop.

She hadn't read it yet and didn't want to know anything about the plot.

This was surprising because I had never really had anyone tell me that they hadn't wanted to know about a plot. Leaving for Russia was my first time leaving home--and in my home plots were free-for-all. I was a little hurt by her reaction, partly because I hadn't meant to offend her and partly because it seemed to me like she thought I had meant to. See, learning firsthand can hurt!

Well, my humor has always been a little waggish--I'm a sucker for situational irony--so I could barely contain myself when just a few minutes later the conversation turned to the Book of Mormon and Staci remarked,

"I just got to the part where Lehi dies."

"What?!?" I gasped, "You mean he dies!?"

Of course, I knew he dies; I had read the Book of Mormon several times before moving to Russia, I read it a few times there, have read it several times after, and plan on reading it many times more.

I found my joke hilarious...but I'm not sure if anyone else did. At least the experience helped me to become a more well-rounded person and learn to not take plot-spoiling so lightly. I think I've come a long way since then--I'm down to asking a question every 10 minutes during a movie instead of every 5, which I'm sure Andrew really appreciates.


  1. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm so glad there's someone else like me out there. I almost always have to skip to the end of a book to see what happens, especially if things are really tense. Even if the wrong people die, I'd rather know what's coming. Then I enjoy reading to see how the author gets you there. I can also re-read books numerous, numerous times and still thoroughly love them. I've heard it said that's the mark of a true literarian.
    Just in an extreme example: I got told all my life that "Beaches" was the best movie ever made, and how great it was and how incredible it was. So I watched it for the first time as a Freshman at BYU and absolutely hated it. No one told me the main character died. It had been built up so much for me by other people that her death was totally and completely devestating and ruined the movie for me, and I've never wanted to see it again. It's not that I find death something that keeps me from wanting to read or watch things. But when you get told how great a movie is and how wonderful it is, and people make it sound like the funniest and gentlest and nicest movie you've ever watched, and you get blind-sided like that, well... it puts a really bad taste in your mouth!

  2. I love you Nancy!!!

    To be honest I don't remeber this paticulat instance but my memory sucks, but it sounds just like everyone! I miss those times!!

  3. I think your joke (about Lehi dying) was hilarious!

    On another note, I can't understand people who are ok with plot spoiling. I HATE it! If the book is really intense, I just want to keep reading until I find out what happens naturally. I realize that my way takes longer before I can relax, but I enjoy finding out the resolution of the conflict when it has its full significance because I've already read the whole conflict. So I thank you for your sensitivity about plot-spoiling.

  4. I have to side with Nancy and Heidi on the whole plot-spoiling issue--of course, since I am the one who taught Nancy from a young age the necessity of doing it! My one really memorable experience was watching the movie Cat Ballou for the first time. I was probably 9 or 10. I was laughing and enjoying the story immensely, and my sister Colleen, said, "Don't get so used to laughing. They are going to hang her, and she dies." The movie suddenly turned into a tragedy for me, and at every moment I was waiting for things to go badly wrong. So, by the time she was in jail, tears were streaming down my cheeks, and my two sisters, both who had seen the movie before, were totally enjoying my misery, knowing, as they did, that REALLY, she gets rescued--Yikes!! I just spoiled the plot for anyone who hasn't seen it! If my sister had just told me that REALLY it has a happy ending, I could have totally enjoyed that movie. I agree with Heidi--I just like to know the end from the beginning, and it does not hurt at all my enjoyment of how the story unfolds. I keep forgetting that Andrew feels quite the opposite, but I am learning!

  5. Lisa Thurman did that to me when we went to see the Scarlet Pimpernel at the Hale Center Theater. I was having a great time and then during intermission she said, "Just to prepare you, they do execute him at the end of the play..."

    I was so upset for the entire second half of the show!

    And then he doesn't get executed! Argh! I was in agony!