Thursday, August 23, 2012


Today I was going to build a script to write comedy reviews. It would be quite simple; a random number generator that would spit out "Needs more rape jokes" and "Could do with less rape jokes" at the end of each spurt of text. However, coming back from lunch, I had to do some work instead, so my auto-reviewer had to remain a wisp of inspiration and offence. Perhaps I'll build it this weekend. Just in time for Edinburgh. 2013.

I got back tonight from the office and tried a different experiment: how memorable are the last lines of novels? It's a truth universally acknowledged that the first line of Sense and Sensibility is known by everyone, but how many people remember the last line? (On the other hand, I only remember the last line of Jane Eyre, and not the first.) I pulled the first ten books I could find from the shelf, and put their last lines up on the net. Now I just need to see if anyone who reads this reads anything else, and is capable of leaving a comment.

Several of the final lines I remembered well - one of them was my favourite book from 18 years ago, so I was unsurprised by that - but I was surprised to see how gloomy the final lines of most of my favourite novels are: departure, loss, and wandering into the gloom of nothingness. And Mr McCreadle. It's lucky I couldn't find the icy grim closing sentence of Imperial Bedrooms to go into this list.

However, there's more in most cases than just the death of hope. A good final line should be at least as good as the first line of a novel; usually this is the case. Or at least I find it more difficult to imagine a competitition for the worst closing lines of a novel, than for the worst opening one. Is that a failure of ambition?


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