Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy endings, sad endings

I suppose it was a foregone conclusion that, sooner or later, I would blog about my favorite sport: tennis. Today was the women's final at the French Open, and two unlikely finalists played: Sam Stosur from Australia and Francesca Schiavone from Italy. Neither had ever been to a Grand Slam final, and for Schiavone, she was also the first female Italian Grand Slam finalist ever.

All the pundits favored Stosur. She's ranked 7th in the world (Schiavone was 17th) and had defeated Justine Henin, Serena Williams, and Jelena Jankovic on her way to the final. At 26, she was three years younger than Schiavone--who is a dinosaur in today's tennis world, turning 30 in just a few days.

But Schiavone came out firing. Though shorter and slighter than Stosur, and without the same power in her serving, Schiavone seemed to have a greater spring in her step. She played fearlessly and with passion. I have rarely seen such an unheralded tennis player look so at ease at such a major occasion. She skipped about, dashed fearlessly to the net, and didn't miss a volley the entire match. Racing through the second set tie-break, she looked nerveless as she closed in on the championship. Moments later, she was flat on her back in elation, kissing the red clay, and scooting off to her legion of supporters, most of whom were wearing t-shirts which read "Schiavo: Nothing is Impossible."

John McEnroe interviewed her after the trophy presentation. When he asked her if she had expected this result, she replied she hadn't expected it, but she had dreamed about it. (I wish I could quote her exact words.) For her, it was a happy ending--as it would be in most fiction.

And now, for something completely different: sad endings. This part of the story concerns two writers, both of whom died before they experienced great success. As a writer, I can't think of many things worse. The first sad ending concerns Stieg Larsson, the creator of Lisbeth Salander and what is being called the Millenium Trilogy. Just after his trilogy was accepted by a Swedish publisher in 2004, Larsson died of a heart attack at aged 50. He never lived to see the massive success of his novels.

The second sad ending is more recent. On May 12th, Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 crashed just short of the runway in Tripoli, Libya. Although one passenger, a 9-year-old Dutch boy, survived, all the other passengers perished. Among them was the Irish-South African novelist, Bree O' Mara, who was traveling to London to meet with her publisher. She had initially planned her London trip for April and the London Book Expo, but the Icelandic volcano played havoc with those plans.

These sort of stories chill me. (One of the themes in my fantasy novel is that life can change in an instant; none of us knows the time of our death--but my villain wants to find the mysterious book that contains the information. Armed with that knowledge, she reckons, she can prevent her own death.) I mourn for these writers and their unrealized dreams.

Life has both sorts of endings. Right now, I thank god for tennis and for stories like Francesca Schiavone's, believing that "Nothing is Impossible."


  1. Great post. I often wonder what Jane Austen's reaction would be if someone could go back in time and tell her that her books would still be in print, and topping lists, 200 years later.

    And in the back of my mind there IS the worry that as I lay dying in a road accident somewhere, my home phone will be ringing with an agent at the other end....

    I read in the Irish Times that Bree's ashes will be scattered in Ireland as well as SA... RIP.

  2. Loved watching Schiavone win although I was rooting for Stosur being half Australian. But it was the way she won, her energy and emotion (so often hidden by players) and the mass love hug in her box with her team afterwards - very inspiring.

    And too right about the loss of Stieg Larsson, although I've not read Bree O'Mara. Terrible to lose such talent.

    So many people live in the past or the future, thinking how good things once were or how good they will be once we've done this and this and this. Surely learning to live in and cherish the present is the key. Not sure if I want to know when I'm going to kick the bucket, it might make me look to the past or the future more.

  3. Great comments, Susan and Rob. Thanks for the reminder that living in the present is key.


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