Thursday, July 31, 2008
What are your favourite final sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its last sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the last line?
If I'm browsing, I've been known to read the final line or paragraph of a novel in making a decision. If the ending tells me all that's come before, back on the shelf it goes. If the ending is one that will require me to read the entire book to understand, then it's likely to come home with me.
(Although truth be told, I'm much more likely to select a book because of a browse through the middle of a book than because of how it starts or ends.)
Three of my all-time favorite endings from three of my all-time favorite novels:
Cody held on to his elbow and led him toward the others. Overhead, seagulls drifted through a sky so clear and blue that it brought back all the outings of his boyhood--the drives, the picnics, the autumn hikes, the wildflower walks in the spring. He remembered the archery trip, and it seemed to him now that he even remembered the arrow sailing in its graceful, fluttering path. He remembered his mother's upright form along the grasses, her hair lit gold, her small hands smoothing her bouquet while the arrow journeyed on. And high above, he seemed to recall, there had been a little brown airplane, almost motionless, droning through the sunshine like a bumblebee.
--Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
This is what I miss, Cordelia: not something that's gone, but something that will never happen. Two old women giggling over their tea.
Now it's full night, clear, moonless and filled with stars, which are not eternal as was once thought, which are not where we think they are.If they were sounds, they would be echoes, of something that happened millions of years ago: a word made of numbers. Echoes of light, shining out of the midst of nothing.
It's old light, and there's not much of it. But it's enough to see by.
--Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye
"It stinks like trains, Mom" she says over the hiss of engines. It's a harsh, queasy, burn smell, with its suggestions of hell and carcinogenesis. I think, This is why a woman makes things up: because when she dies, those lives she never got to are all going down with her. All those possibilities will just sit there like a bunch of schoolkids with their hands raised and uncalled on--each knowing, really knowing, the answer.
Life is sad. Here is someone.
"Knock, knock," whispers Georgianne. She takes two steps to my one. "Knock, knock," she repeats.
"Just me!" she says and giggles wildly.
I shake my head. "You made that up, didn't you."
"Yup." She tugs at her bag. Passing the diesel at the front, we are suddenly hit with a steamy, acrid smoke billowing out from underneath it. People around us cough. George leans her head on my arm, mock-weary, Pre-Raphaelite. She is a gift I have given myself, a lozenge of pretend. Pretend there's a child dozed between us, wrote Darrel once, and the city's parch and chill is not the world, and the world's not hurtful as a fist holding us sternly, always here and down.
George fiddles with my coat cuff. "Sometimes," she sighs into the steam, "I feel like I'm right in the mist of things."
I swear, she is a genius.
--Lorrie Moore, Anagrams