Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Turn Your Literary Frown Upside Down

Remember Romeo and Juliet? No matter how you parse their tale, it all ended up quite badly. And did it have to? What if they’d had more time to work things out? What if they’d had counseling or more understanding families? Less sugar in their diets? More consuming hobbies? With any of those things in play, their story could have ended up quite differently.

A Montana-based literary contest asks contestants not only to think about literature’s unhappy endings, but to take action. The rules of the Happy Tales Literary Contest asks competitors to “take any literary work with a sad, disturbing, or negative ending and supply a happy, affirmative, uplifting, humorous ending.”

The trouble, of course, is… well, too big to tackle in this small space. But if Romeo and Juliet ends with the pair riding off into the sunset; if Doctor Zhivago is allowed to grow old; if Anna doesn’t fling herself under the train and Hagar Shipley goes sweetly off to a marble-festooned retirement condo in order to knit cardigans for her corgis or if any number of other “negative” literary endings are overturned (turn your frown upside down) does the world still make sense? And in what way is an ending that is “affirmative” better than one that tastes like truth?

If you figure you have the answer, the contest is here. Past winners are here. Entries close September 30th and “may be read and praised and/or ridiculed by contest judges in a public session of the Humanities Montana Festival of the Book, October 23-25, 2008.”


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