Thursday, April 10, 2008

Famous Last Words

The American Book Review has placed 100 novels on its shortlist of best last lines.  In response, the Guardian's books blog wonders why we memorize the last lines of movies and immortalize the last words of our heroes, but nobody talks much about the last lines of books.  That got me thinking about it, and I wanted to share the last lines from three books that I love.  Please let me know your favorite last lines in the comments.

If you loved the Oscar-winning film version of The Godfather (and who didn't?), then you will surely love the novel.  I turned the last page with the same relish with which I had watched The Exorcist's* credits scroll:

She emptied her mind of all thought of herself, of her children, of all anger, of all rebellion, of all questions.  Then with a profound and deeply willed desire to believe, to be heard, as she had done every day since the murder of Carlo Rizzi, she said the necessary prayers for the soul of Michael Corleone.

From that classic of freshman English, Great Expectations:

I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.

Finally, from one of the funnest books I ever read:

He glanced back at Beth and Harry.  They both looked tired.  Beth stared into space, preoccupied with her own thoughts.  But her face was serene; despite the hardships of their time underwater, Norman thought she looked almost beautiful.

"You know, Beth," he said, "you look lovely."

Beth did not seem to hear, but then she turned toward him slowly.  "Why, thank you, Norman," she said.

And she smiled.

Sure, you need a little context for that, but trust me, Michael Crichton couldn't have ended Sphere any better.

Again--if you've got any classic last lines, I'd love to hear them.  Put'm in the comments.


*The Exorcist is the most satisfying movie I have ever seen.  Maybe not the best, scariest, most exciting, or most heart-warming, but the most satisfying.


Justin said...

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And one fine morning ——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Jeremy Masten said...

I don't know if you looked at The Guardian article, but a lot of people really liked the Gatsby quote. I remember really liking the book when I read it in high school, even tho I didn't get it.