After my new book club in Santa Fe discussed the decline of literature and how 10,000 Suns was a good story, but not good literature, I decided to start my own personal litmus test for literature.
Here are some of my favorite last lines from classic literature:
"....After all, tomorrow is another day." -- Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (1936)
This is not the scene I dreamed of. Like much else nowadays I leave it feeling stupid, like a man who lost his way long ago but presses on along a road that may lead nowhere. --J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (1980)
Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision. -- Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1927)
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.--F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you? --Ralph Ellison,Invisible Man (1952)
Go, my book, and help destroy the world as it is. --Russell Banks, Continental Drift (1985)
...you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on. Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable (1953; trans. Samuel Beckett)
In your rocking-chair, by your window dreaming, shall you long, alone. In your rocking-chair, by your window, shall you dream such happiness as you may never feel. --Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)
But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can't stand it. I been there before. --Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)
`It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.' --Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities(1859)
Are there any questions? --Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (1986)
It was a fine cry--loud and long--but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow. --Toni Morrison, Sula (1973)
(For more, see Kottke.org's list of the 100 Best Last Lines from Novels.)
Now I'm keeping track of the last lines from the books I'm reading.
From Junot Diaz's Pulitzer Prize Winner, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, (2007) "He wrote: So this is what everybody's always talking about! Diablo! If only I'd known. The beauty! The beauty!"
Political endings? If the Iraq War was Literature, Petraeus might have the best last line: "Tell me how this ends."