Raw Shark Texts: The Novel that Ends with a Wink

Final Photograph in Raw Shark Texts

After finishing a good book, I usually close the book quietly and sit there for a minute, staring out at the nothingness in front of me. I let the feeling of completion (or incompletion) waft over me; there is a certain sadness—sadness that it’s over, sadness that this fictional world is somewhat complete, at least for me, the reader.  After reading Raw Shark Texts, I had a different feeling: after the final little “wink” of a photograph on the last page, I closed the novel assertively with renewed energy. I couldn’t wait until my boyfriend came over so I could tell him about this fantastic book that I had just read—this fantastic world where conceptual loops and Ludovician sharks are possible.

What makes this book different? Why was I satisfied by the ending and not mourning the final note like other books I admire?

While, in other books, the world and the characters are final, this book speaks to the idea that people and stories live on, even if in other universes. Throughout Raw Shark Texts, we are not sure if Eric Sanderson is mentally disturbed or if there really are conceptual fish and sharks that inconspicuously invade the minds and personalities of some few people in our world. Furthermore, in the second half of the book, we are not sure if Clio and Scout are the same person (perhaps in different universes) or if they merely have striking similarities.

These questions are not clearly answered in the end, but instead left ambiguous for the reader. While the final scene of the book makes us believe that Scout and Eric Sanderson defeated the shark and made it out alive, now headed to the blissful island that the First Eric Sanderson and Clio used to share, the final chapter of the book documents a letter from this world’s “reality” that says Eric Sanderson (a mentally ill, missing person) was found dead at a strange site. Furthermore, while Scout is still called “Scout” and not “Clio” in the end, on page 424, the couple has the same banter as we had previously seen between the First Eric Sanderson and Clio on page 45 (the same exact “I love you”/ “I enjoy spending time with you, too”/ “I hate that one” inside joke conversation).

But these ambiguities are seemingly not troubling to the reader (or at least to myself). By the end of the novel, I am not concerned that the book doesn’t make sense within the conventions of our world, and instead, I allow for all these possibilities. There is a certain dualism that this book allows for: the idea that two opposing truths (Eric Sanderson is dead/ Eric Sanderson is alive) can both be true, and mustn’t be mutually exclusive. Eric Sanderson is perhaps dead in our world, but he lives on in this other conceptual world with Scout (whatever form that might take). Furthermore, the final photograph of the book ends the novel with a particular mood, a sort of “wink” as I described it earlier. While the photograph is presumably from an old television show or motion picture (in our reality), it is almost a hint at the way Eric Sanderson and Scout (Clio) live on in some other, secret universe. They are staring into each others’ eyes mischievously, sipping alcohol, and are unmistakably happy. But it’s the mischievousness that sticks with you: it is almost as if the book ends on some inside joke that, after reading the novel, we now understand.

And perhaps this is why I close the book with a smirk on my face, ready to throw it on my bed and continue my own life—because they live on.

 

 

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~ by khughes80 on January 25, 2013.

 
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