Everyone knows that a great opening line can “make” a novel. You might be so beguiled by a beautiful first sentence that you decide to follow the author on whatever path s/he chooses to lead you (even if where it leads you is misery, confusion and despair). We’ve made a lot of fuss on this blog (as publishing people do) about opening lines…but what about final ones? How a book ends and the image, emotion, or idea it leaves you with is, to me, in some ways more important than how it ensnares you to begin with.
I remember many years ago being rewarded for my persistence and dedication in reading Faulkner’s maddeningly brilliant The Sound and the Fury by the very last line (of what it turned out was an appendix added to the book years later; I didn’t know this at the time so for me it was the last line): “They endured.” That phrase has stayed with me for decades now. (Yowsa! Feeling old here.) Its simplicity is its power and it left me in awe of someone who could have crafted such a fierce and uncompromising book and ended it so exactly right (the actual first last line is pretty great too; check it out).
I have a hard time remembering what I had for breakfast (and it’s the same thing every day), but some of my all time favorites:
“After all, tomorrow is another day.” – Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
“Isn’t it pretty to think so.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
“She called in her soul to come and see.” – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
“Vladimir: Well, shall we go? Estragon: Yes, let’s go. [They do not move.]” – Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
And, of course, I surveyed the DGLMers. Some of them ignored my e-mail (as they do) and some came back with:
Stephanie, Jim, and Lauren: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
And Lauren: “He loved Big Brother.” – George Orwell, 1984
And Jim: “When they tried to detach the skeleton which he held in his embrace, he fell to dust.” – Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Rachel: “yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.” – James Joyce, Ulysses
Jessica: “She runs.” – Nadine Gordimer, July’s People
What are your favorite last words and why?