Seven Last Lines

Amanda at Household Opera has been thinking about literary endings, and has posted some of her favorites with invitations to guess. I think it’s too cool a game to pass up, so I’ll add my contributions, and offer my invitation as well: feel free to post your guesses in the comments, and consider yourself tagged to put up your own list of seven last lines, as well.

  1. “Am I?” Jesse said.
  2. Gold-glowing child, it steps into the sky and sends a birth-song slanting down gray dust streets and sleepy windows of the southern town.
  3. Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye.
  4. 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.
  5. No one watching this woman smear her initials in the steam on her water glass with her first finger, or slip cellophane packets of oyster crackers into her handbag for the sea gulls, could know how her thoughts are thronged by our absence, or know how she does not watch, does not listen, does not wait, does not hope, and always for me and Sylvie.
  6. We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped.
  7. The cults of the famous and the dead.
Seven Last Lines

10 thoughts on “Seven Last Lines

  • August 13, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Most of these I have no idea — but #7 I recognize because I read it for two different classes: Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. And #6 is Henry James, right?

    #3 seems familiar, somehow, but I can’t place it.

  • August 13, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Yes, #6 is Henry James, of course, and #5 is Housekeeping. And I’ll bet that Dorothea likely recognizes #3 as swiftly as she recognized your LoTR line.

  • August 14, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    I SHOULD go look… but #3, maybe *Pale Fire*? 20th century sounding stuff! So hard! (If I did this, it would be way too obvious, I’m afraid.)

  • August 14, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Okay–3: Atwood? Camus? Poe?
    1. Agee?
    2. Faulkner?
    4. Wharton? Chopin?


  • August 15, 2007 at 12:01 am

    Yeah, it’s all 20th century, except for the James, which — at 1898 — is close enough. All obviously prose fiction, as well, and all at least well-known (if not so-called classic) instances of what we like to term literary fiction, aside from #3, which Dorothea might tell you is a particularly squamous instance of classic genre fiction.

    Joanna: #1 is much, much later; #2 is rather more lyrical — albeit perhaps on a similar level of experimentalism as The Sound and the Fury — than Faulkner, and #4, you’re on the right track with female authors, albeit again somewhat later. In fact, perhaps some might more easily recognize a central or key quotation from #4: “Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”

    I’ll post answers in a day or two.

  • August 15, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Number 4: The reference to darkness & light – that just has to be Flannery O’Connor. Am I right?

  • August 15, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    If anyone wants to drop by Spokane for a visit, we can visit Sandpoint, where housekeeping takes place. It’s a funky little town. I interviewed for a newspaper job there in the mid 1980’s. It’s changed since then, no longer based on an extraction (mining and logging) economy, but mostly tourism now. Beautiful place.

    However, I would never have got that one. It’s been so long. The others, my only hope at salvation is I have read none of them, but, but . . .

  • August 17, 2007 at 9:39 pm


    1. Joyce Carol Oates, Wonderland.
    2. Jean Toomer, Cane.
    3. H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu.”
    4. Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood. Apophenia guessed the author correctly. (Is that you, Danah?)
    5. Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping, as pointed out by Amanda and elaborated upon by Bradley.
    6. Henry James, The Turn of the Screw, as guessed by Amanda.
    7. Don DeLillo, White Noise.

    To me, they all kind of qualify as minor classics in (mostly) 20th century fiction, which was my criterion of selection, and are all favorites. As Bardiac suggested, I’d have likely included some Nabokov and Pynchon as well, were their concluding lines all not so already familiar. But I’m getting some ideas for round 2. . . Calvino, maybe?


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