Famous last words: The endings of books

Published 9:54 am Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Since school break has come to a close and all things academic have cranked back up, I will make a confession: someone quite close to me attempted to cram a summer’s worth of reading into a couple of weeks, max. Yes, the sad truth is a 3-inch-thick biography of John Adams remained stationary on a certain nightstand in our house for more than a month.

I don’t think the surplus of pages was the problem, though. Daughter No. 2 has always liked to read. I suspect it’s the required part that made this work somewhat less palatable than the Fierce Convictions and Westing Game lying beside it. Or maybe it had something to do with aesthetics. The cover – an oil of Adams by Gilbert Stuart – does look pretty stern.

I know (and she knows) we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, though, so perhaps she’d be interested in another measure of worth — last lines. Recognize any of these?

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“But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally, she’s going to adopt me and civilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.” — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

“Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.” — My Antonia, Willa Cather

“Shall it be my lot to go that way again, I may give those that desire it an account of what I here am silent about: meantime I bid my reader adieu.”  — The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan

“’God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,’ whispered Anne softly.”  — Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

“Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” — Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” — A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” —  To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

“But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.” —The House At Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne

“On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.” —Moby Dick, Herman Melville

“And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” — A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

“With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.” — Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” — Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

“’You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!’

‘Thank goodness!’ said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.” — The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

“What had he brought back form this long and weary journey? Nothing you say? Perhaps so; nothing but a charming woman, who, strange as it may appear, made him the happiest of men! Truly, would you not for less than that make the tour around the world?” — Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne

But back to real life and the required presidential biography.

Here’s how David McCullough wrapped up that work on Adams: “Once, in a letter to his old friend… he had written, ‘Griefs upon griefs! Disappointments upon disappointments. What then? This is a gay, merry world notwithstanding.’ It could have been his epitaph.”

I’d give last lines like those a nod of consideration, but Daughter No. 2, I’m afraid, will never make it to that page. I think she bowed out sometime after the table of contents. That’s when a volume on Truman caught her fancy instead.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.