By Robin Abrahams
A friend of mine sends this article, from Variety, about "spoiler etiquette." It's yet another area of social life where the rules aren't set, and which reflects how much diversity and technology have changed things. I'd imagine that 100, 150 years ago, giving away crucial plot points of a story wasn't considered a major faux pas. Everyone was assumed to be cognizant of the plots of the major canon of literature, already ("What, you say Prince Hamlet and all his retinue save Horatio perish at the end, and Denmark is o'ertaken by Norway's Fortinbras? D--- you and your meddling ways! I shall not finish the work now, what point is there?"). And the popular literature of the day was published serially, in short form, and there were no chat boards on which one could feverishly discuss Little Nell's chances of survival.
I'm not a hard-liner when it comes to spoilers. Yes, some plot elements are best kept under wraps, at least for a decent interval. (People who rent television series on DVD have no grounds on which to complain about spoilers. You want to be surprised, get cable. You want to watch six straight hours of "Dexter" in a mesmerized haze, get DVD. Make your choice and take the consequences.) But too much fetishizing of "what happens" reflects a thoughtless elevation of plot above all other narrative elements. How "it" happens is at least, if not more, important. And that part will always contain surprises. One of the most page-turning books I ever read was Anne Sexton's Transformations, a series of poems based on the Grimm fairy tales. Knowing how the stories ended didn't matter. Not knowing what turns of phrase, allusions, confessions, pop-culture references Ms. Sexton's brilliant, diseased imagination would lace those stories with did matter.