Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Last Lines from Novels

There is something about the end of the year that renders us suckers for “best of” lists. Whether it is the best albums or the worst movies, the last week of December bombards us with these lists. It is compounded this year with the closure of the decade as well. Any “best of” list is wrought with subjectivity. (Un)fortunately, that won’t keep me from providing a “best of” of sorts. I like novels. So, I present my own highly subjective list of the best last lines in novels. I mined my memory and was greatly assisted with reminders from the American Book Review’s 100 Best Last Lines from Novels to come up with the following favorite last lines. What is your favorite last line?

(all novels mentioned are available at the Austin Public Library)

“So [said the doctor]. Now vee may perhaps to begin. Yes?”
-Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint

“I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.”
-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

“And however superciliously the highbrows carp, we the public in our heart of hearts all like a success story; so perhaps my ending is not so unsatisfactory after all.”
-W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge

“He wrote: So this is what everybody’s always talking about! Diablo! If only I’d known. The beauty! The beauty!”
-Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“’Like a dog!’ he said, it was as if the shame of it must outlive him.”
-Franz Kafka, The Trial

“Columbus too thought he was a flop, probably, when they sent him back in chains. Which didn’t prove there was no America.
-Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

“Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead.”
-Don DeLillo, White Noise

“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

“’Meet Mrs. Bundren,” he says.”
-William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

“I was grateful to him for calling me back and reminding me where I belonged, in the clamorous, radiant, painfully beautiful kingdom of the living.”
-Francince Prose, Goldengrove

Going a bit further, the last page of The Great Gatsby is my favorite last page of all time. I won’t say it is my favorite novel, but that last page is incredible.


La Princesse de Clèves said...

My favorite on the list is:
Rabbit thinks he should maybe say more, the kid looks wildly expectant, but enough. Maybe. Enough. �John Updike, Rabbit at Rest (1990)

liblairian said...

I really like that one too and wanted to include it, but decided to only go with one Updike line. "Rabbit Redux" has a great last line too.

Katelyn P said...

i know i have others but my favorite last line from a novel right now is: "Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood where the first primroses were beginning to bloom." from Watership Down.