The American Book Review published their listof the 100 best last lines of novels in their January/February issue. I like the sound of “Best Last” next to each other in the headline. It reminds me of the end of the school year when we would count down to summer vacation starting with the “First Last.” It was that point in our repetitive weekly routine after which everything else would wind down.
It’s unclear just what exactly constitutes a last line, according to The American Book Review. Some of the selections are much more than a line, even more than just one sentence. Some seem completely garbled out of context and some neatly bundle up the whole book that preceded them. I’m not sure a last line is greater ifit is meaningful beyond the last page of its book or if it is not.
Here are the lines I like best:
“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”—Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926)
And you say, “Just a moment, I’ve almost finished If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino.”—Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (1979; trans. William Weaver)
This is the difference between this and that.—Gertrude Stein, A Novel of Thank You (1958)
She sat staring with her eyes shut, into his eyes, and felt as if she had finally got to the beginning of something she couldn’t begin, and she saw him moving farther and farther away, farther and farther into the darkness until he was the pin point of light.—Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood (1952)
As an aside, the song is Laid by James.