16 April 2010

Wilde end

"For the future let those who come to play with me have no hearts," she cried, and she ran out into the garden.
-- Oscar Wilde, The Birthday of the Infanta (published in the 1892 collection titled "A House of Pomegranates")

The opening line has to arrest the reader, seduce him enough to continue reading. By the time the reader is at the ending sentence, however, the author already has the reader hooked.
The ending sentence, when viewed on its own and outside its context, will often sound ordinary. In its context, however, the same sentence will enchant, dazzle, mesmerize, exhaust, break you. In fact, I encountered but few sentences that make an impression on their own. They will then themselves appear as tiny tales:
Is it possible for anyone in Germany, nowadays, to raise his right hand, for whatever the reason, and not be flooded by the memory of a dream to end all dreams? - Walter Abish, How German Is It? (1980)
While the opening sentence is at best love at first sight, the ending sentence (or, indeed, the ending paragraph or the ending chapter) can be a very emotional experience. Many readings are lovely one-night stands, but a few can be a lasting love, a break-up, a breakdown; any of these, and more.
It is not until the end that the wretched words will let you know whether you are headed for one or the other.

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