In closing

Venomous Kate gave it the old college try, but One Hundred Years of Solitude didn’t do a thing for her:

When I’d first mentioned that I was reading this book, Craig commented that “the last paragraph … is one of the best in literature”. I agree, but probably not for the same reason.

After having spent 21 nights of misery reading this book (because I’m too stubborn to quit reading any book, no matter how much I despise it), I loved that last paragraph, too … if only because it meant I was finally done with the damned thing.

Frankly, as García Márquez goes, I prefer Love in the Time of Cholera, but then, as the phrase goes, I would.

And now I find myself with an opportunity: to supply another worthy last paragraph, and to solicit reader favorites. Here’s one of mine:

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

(From “The Dead,” the final story in James Joyce’s Dubliners.)


  1. Francis W. Porretto »

    3 February 2009 · 5:39 pm

    That is, indeed, the finest closing paragraph in all of English literature — but then, “The Dead” is the best of all Joyce’s fictions, and Joyce at his best eats the rest of the Western literary canon for breakfast.

    Incidentally, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, John Huston’s movie of “The Dead,” starring Donal McCann and Anjelica Huston, is an extraordinary bit of cinema, the sort that lingers with you for days afterward.

  2. Akaky »

    3 February 2009 · 6:07 pm

    And it was JJ’s birthday yesterday to boot!

  3. Tatyana »

    3 February 2009 · 6:17 pm

    So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

  4. Charles Pergiel »

    3 February 2009 · 9:25 pm

    “His soul swooned slowly”? Bah. It’s snowing. When it snows it pretty much covers everything. I guess this makes me, what, a heathen pagan? Or a barbarian? Avast ye swabs!

  5. fillyjonk »

    4 February 2009 · 10:17 am

    Tat, I almost posted the same thing, but when I got to thinking about the whole novel, it made me so sad that I was too paralyzed to post.

    I’ve read Gatsby 3 or 4 times and every single time it just makes me so damn sad.

  6. Kirk »

    4 February 2009 · 3:22 pm

    I agree, fillyjonk. If Gatsby isn’t the saddest story in American literature, it’s got to be in the top 5.

  7. Tatyana »

    4 February 2009 · 6:34 pm

    For many years, ever since I read it in Russian translation when I was 23 or 24, it has been my secret retreat, a novel to come to to get a fresh grounding in life.
    That room, with huge sofa and the curtains that were flowing like sails under the summer breeze, and two beautiful girls reclining on that sofa…a picture of wholesome, simple beauty – and everything in it turned out to be a lie, a stage decoration.
    I even made that room a subject of my entry essay to design school..the topic was what interior inspired you to choose your major.

    Sad, but so beautiful.

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