Some last lines have the power to disrupt the course of an entire story, shaking up our expectations, the Huffington Post tells us. Others leave us hanging, and still others provide a cathartic sense of closure. A beautiful last sentence or paragraph anchors a story in a reader’s mind long after the book is finished.
That’s true, and what all authors strive to do but we never know exactly how well we’ve achieved that. Only our readers can tell us that, and they probably won’t. (But I did have a reader call me up in the middle of the night to blurt out in anguish: “You killed her. I can’t believe you killed her.”)
We just do the best we can with our last lines and hope the readers find them satisfying, at worst, captivating and memorable at best. A few of mine:
My most recent book, “Midnight at Spanish Gardens”, follows the lives of five people who are given the extraordinary choice to live a totally different life, with the understanding that at some point they will have to choose which life, which world, they will live in for the rest of the lives.
At the end, the last character who has made her choice, stands staring out at the night:
The world had ended. A certain world, at least, had ended.
A new world was about to begin.
As it did, after all, every day.
Tai is not the most powerful character in “The Secrets of Jin-Shei” but she is the center, and in the end the lone survivor of a group of women bound together by a vow of sisterhood. The story ends:
Tai said nothing, but simply pointed to where the first bright evening star had kindled in the twilight.
And then they sat and watched in wonder, the old woman and the two children, as the stars shimmered into life, one by one, in the summer sky.
The sky was not aflame with the fires of destruction or devastation. She was facing east, and that which she was staring at was dawn, the rising of the sun, the promise of a brand new day. From the darkness beneath the earth’s rim, the orb of the young sun rose slowly over the edge of the night and poured its liquid light into the world, a bright and holy fire, woken by faith and valour from the sleeping embers of heaven.
The place where her mother spoke words of power to raise dough for bread, where her father sat in his old leather armchair on Sundays with a week’s worth of the ‘Daily Magic Times’ and the thick ‘Sunday Elixir’ in untidy piles of newsprint around his feet, where her brothers squabbled and elbowed for the last slice of peach pie, where Aunt Zoe could hear the sunlight and see the wind.
“Home,” she said. “I’m going home. And after that… whatever comes.”
The Huffington Post article offers us the endings of several classical novels, from “The Great Gatsby” to “The Sun Also Rises”, to “In Cold Blood”, to “Gone with the Wind.”
“. . . and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”
“We couldn’t NOT include one of the longest last sentences in literature,” the Huffington Post says .” The last chapter of Ulysses is Molly Bloom’s stream of consciousness, and it’s simply amazing.”
What is your favorite book ending?
A good blurb is hard to find, as every author knows
In 1874, Chatto & Windus asked Mark Twain for “a brief but quotable review” of “Nuggets and Dust: Panned Out in California” by Dod Grile, a pseudonym for Ambrose Bierce, Letters of Note reported. The publisher, however, underestimated the brutal honesty of Twain, who replied,
Dod Grile (Mr. Bierce) is a personal friend of mine, & I like him exceedingly–but he knows
my opinion of the Nuggets & Dust, & so I do not mind exposing it to you. It is the vilest book that exists in print–or very nearly so. If you keep a ‘reader,’ it is charity to believe he never really read that book, but framed his verdict upon hearsay.
Bierce has written some admirable things–fugitive pieces–but none of them are among
the Nuggets. There is humor in Dod Grile, but for every laugh that is in his book there are
five blushes, ten shudders and a vomit. The laugh is too expensive.
On the Road for 17,527 Miles
Jack Kerouac’s On The Road has been turned into Google driving directions.
Gregor Weichbrodt, a German college student, took all of the geographic stops mentioned in On the Road, plugged them into Google Maps, and ended up with a 45-page manual of driving directions, divided into chapters paralleling those of Kerouac’s original book.
You can read the manual as a free ebook or you can purchase a print copy on Lulu and perhaps make it the basis for your own road trip. Wondering how long such a trip might take? Google Maps indicates that Kerouac’s journey covered some 17,527 miles and theoretically took some 272 hours.
Quote of the Day
Comments welcome. What do you think?