Friday, August 01, 2008

Booking Through Thursday(?) - Endings

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?

(Yes, I know that today isn't Thursday. As you will see from my next post, I was a little busy yesterday.)

Oh, dear. This one is as difficult as the last! I am no better at remembering last lines than I am at remembering first lines. As with the first lines, my favorites are those that capture my imagination. I find that I don't actually like endings that wrap things up nicely. Life doesn't end in a neat bundle, so why should a book? Oh, I do whine if a book leave too many loose endings and I do like to have the major plot lines completed. Still, I like a book that leaves room for either a sequel or just a drifting of the imagination. The author doesn't have to produce an actual sequel. It's enough if the author leaves a few clues that let my own (over)active imagination roam.

One of the best at this was, of course, Douglas Adams. I always loved how he ended his books just enough to leave me satisfied, but not so much as to shut off interesting avenues for the future. This would be how the Hitchhikers Guide Trilogy expanded to five books.

Near the end of his life, Robert Heinlein took this concept to the extreme. His books became longer and longer and left more and more unsaid. The concept he was exploring was that the characters when invented formed alternate universes. If the character wasn't fully developed, his "real" life character was rather one-dimensional. Also, if the plot lines were too cleanly tied off, the character would be left with nothing interesting to do. While I enjoyed the theoretical exercise, his last books proved extremely frustrating.

The other endings that I particularly detest are those that seem to sacrifice the character for the sake of ending the book. I felt that the main character in The Gathering suffered from this treatment. I didn't believe for a minute that she was going to pull herself together and come back to her family (or to sanity). She had far too many unresolved demons in her mind to go back to her old life.

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