For the better part of the last 2 years, I have been reading The Once and Future King. I blew through the first “book” The Sword in the Stone. As all good people are, I was very familiar with Disney’s animated version and it is mostly the same in the book. Only there is more of it. And Robin Hood. It is exactly what I thought I was getting into. The second part, The Queen of Air and Darkness, sets up Arthur’s goals as king and is largely terrific. But I have not been able to make much progress since I finished the second part, and I have only recently realized why.
I know how King Arthur’s story ends. I’m fairly sure everybody does. Everybody knows about Lancelot, Guinevere, and Mordred. If I read the rest of the book, that stuff happens. As long as the book remains unread, Arthur is still a young, idealistic king. I can still look back fondly on his adventures with Merlin. Once I read it, I’ve condemned him to the failure of his dream. It is like the reverse of “The Monster at the End of this Book,” in which Grover is deathly afraid of the promised monster and appears afraid of letting the reader turn the page.
This sort of thing does not normally bother me; I’m sure I’ll get over before long. I want to read the rest of the book. I feel compelled to see it to the end. However, knowing what is coming has made me put it off as long a possible. I can count the number of books I’ve started but never finished on one hand; aside from The Once and Future King and what I’m currently reading (The Devil’s Eye by Jack McDevitt) the only thing that comes to mind is that monstrous turd Battlefield Earth. There is little fear I will not finish.
Honestly, I wanted to see if I could relate serious literature to The Monster at the End of the Book, and I feel I succeeded. Really, I love that book for introducing young me to the concept of meta-fiction.