The Story of Edgar Sawtelle Webcast Transcript
David: Part of—
Oprah: That's what I felt at the end, and I know so many of you did in the end of this story in the barn, the tragedy in the barn, we all felt like we got a blow to our heads.
David: Yeah. I think of it slightly—I would word things slightly differently than he did.
David: You know, I—when I think about the function of tragedy, I think of it as helping us see things more clearly. And the way I think about that is, I think in our ordinary everyday life we go around with a kind of armor on. It's very necessary to get the work that we do every day done to live our lives. But that armor also is a kind of veil and we can't see clearly through it. And what—what tragedy does, or what we want out of our stories is somehow to see things more clearly.
David: And what tragedy and comedy do, the only two things we—the two ways we know to do this is to get readers or people in an audience to sort of drop that armor for a little while, and in that moment when that armor is dropped and they can see things clearly, there is a chance to show them something that's meaningful and that they will see it more deeply or more clearly somehow than they would ordinarily. And it doesn't last very long and that armor, and that shield goes back up. And then we're back in our sort of ordinary way of experiencing the world. And I think that's what tragedy is. That's why this sort of paradox of tragedy is who wants to know—read a sad story? And yet we feel a little bit grateful. When it works, we feel a little bit grateful that we have.
Oprah: Yeah. And haunted. And a little haunted.
Oprah: We just got a great e-mail from Canada that says—this is from Myra from Regina, Saskatchewan. She says, "I thought the ending was perfectly clear. Edgar left life because he was ready. He was incomplete without Almondine, his father and his former life. What I want to know is what happened to his mother? I see her as being suicidal."
David: Well, first of all, I agree with the first part of this.
Oprah: That he left because he was ready.
David: Yeah. Part of—part of I think for me, at least, what's satisfying about the ending is Edgar is reunited with Almondine.
David: In a tragic way, but that's still—it feels to me like they are two halves of the same character. And to leave them apart at the end of the story would be—would make it not a story at all. So they had to come—come together. And they could only come together in that way. So to me there's something right about it, even though it's hard.
Oprah: Yeah. Yeah. Beautiful.
David: Trudy, however, I think—I don't know. I—I don't think that she would be suicidal. However, I do think that for her to go forward, she has to basically start from scratch.
David: She has to rebuild her life. She has nothing.
Oprah: She has to have a deep reckoning with herself.
David: Absolutely. Yes.
Oprah: Well, thank you, Myra from Regina. That's really good. Really.
Oprah: The next most popular question from our book club members is what happens to the Sawtelle dogs? Yes.
David: Yeah. Now this is my very favorite question to ask readers. The whole story is constructed so that at the end of the story, the Sawtelle dogs reach a moment where they can make a choice.
David: In that last sentence—
Oprah: They get to choose.
David: The most important word entirely is the word "choice."
David: The fulfillment of Edgar's grandfather's vision. It's the thing that in that—you know I talked about that moment—
Oprah: That's right.
David: —when that tragedy lets you see something clearly? That chapter, that final chapter, is, in my view, that's the moment I want you to see as clearly as possible. And I want the—I want the dogs, at the end of that story, to be absolutely poised and capable of making either choice. But I don't want the story to commit. It's one of those things, like what the dogs are exactly like, that I want readers to bring to the story.
Oprah: Yes. Because a lot of people want to know, did they go back to Henry's house? Did they—they went wherever you think they went.
David: Look back at the story. If you—they have the power to choose. What would they choose? Knowing what they know now, what would they choose? And that is the question that is posed to the reader.
Oprah: "She looked behind her one last time, into the forest and along the way they'd come; and when she was sure all of them were together now, and no others would appear, she turned and made her choice and began to cross."
David: Right. But what that choice is, is not said.
Oprah: Yeah. Powerful. Powerful. And the third most popular question is, okay that, was the question? Why did Claude really—why did Claude really kill Gar?
David: I'm not sure I understand this question. I saw the—I saw the poll when it was sent out.
David: I'm not sure I totally understand the intent behind the question.
Oprah: Yeah, me too. That's why I just said that.
David: I think that—I mentioned this earlier. Edgar's got a problem to solve. Once he understands that—that Claude may or may probably have killed Gar, he's got a problem to solve. And answering that question is the problem. He never gets evidence. And he can never know because the only person who really knows is Claude, and he's not going to tell anybody, right?