Last Sentences

Last sentences are more difficult to evaluate absent context than first sentences, because first sentences are a handshake, a promise, an invitation, an opening. They are establishers of context. They mean in conversation with what follows them, but not only in conversation with what follows them. Last sentences mean only in conversation with what precedes them. Still, I think it is (or I hope it will be) a useful exercise to look at some last sentences absent context, and see what’s there. I plan to post about this matter again, and at greater length, but for now I want to just offer a selection of last sentences for your edification and mine:

“The widow begs you, therefore, if you ever pass through our village, to be good enough to spend the night in her house as her guest, and when you leave in the morning, to take the santuri with you.” – Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“These spirits, they’d left her for good the morning that the news was broadcast on the radio that her brother had set his body on fire in the prison yard at dawn, leaving behind no corpse to bury, no trace of himself at all.” – Edwidge Danticat, The Dew Breaker

“He. She. Sleeps. O.K.?” – John Updike, Rabbit Redux

“He opens his mouth again and does one better.” – Erin McGraw, The Good Life

“Now everybody–” – Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

“Ana said, ‘Perhaps it was not my life either.'” – V.S. Naipaul, Half a Life

“Missed you so much, thought about you every day.” – A.M. Homes, The End of Alice

“Like a comic actor shouting on a stage, I screamed with all my remaining strength, ‘Help! Help!'” – Tayib Saleh, Season of Migration to the North

“The rooks come down to scrabble in the grass as every evening at this time they do, her companions while she watches the fading of the day.” – William Trevor, The Story of Lucy Gault

“He is sitting there cross-legged in front of the wall, and slowly his face bursts into a smile like flames.” – Bobbie Ann Mason, In Country

“On the last day I swam in the Nile–overhand–and they drove me to the airport, where I kissed Geneva–and the Cabots–goodbye.” – John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever

“There was no call to make such a fuss about it.” – Anne Tyler, Saint Maybe

“I say those words.” – Todd Grimson, Within Normal Limits

“Anyway, I prefer coffee, and not to be recalled as a tyrant.” – Amelia Gray, Museum of the Weird

“‘You dumb bastard,’ he said, his eyes blinking rapidly, ‘I love you.'” – Daniel Woodrell, Under the Bright Lights

“Look where your hands are. Now.” – Toni Morrison, Jazz

“Now the trumpets sound, the downhill charge, the slaughter, thousands, a short sharp ascent, a curve and before us the edge, we slide to it and across and before us the same long wide valley, and Jauja, a lake of golden light, but look, the glow is steady, not fire but cradled streetlights, we lower toward them, and a thousand miles away the pacazo wakes.” – Roy Kesey, Pacazo

“It unleashed its dreadful cry.” – Adam Novy, The Avian Gospels

“She stayed out there, waiting for me.” – Grace Krilanovich, The Orange Eats Creeps

“I’m willing to find out.” – Jesus Angel Garcia, badbadbad

“‘Instead of us fuckin’ up the story, let Scooter do it.'” – Elmore Leonard, Be Cool

“What did you see?” – Terese Svoboda, Pirate Talk or Mermalade

“I don’t know if it’ll be the same when I get back there but if it is then I’ll likely be home when I get home.” – Robert Lopez, Asunder

“‘Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!'” – Imre Kertesz, The Pathseeker

“Perhaps quite soon, in the new house she would be living in (alone) with David, she would be looking at the box, and there, in a shot on the News of Berlin, Madrid, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, she would see Ben, standing rather apart from the crowd, staring at the camera with his goblin eyes, or searching the faces in the crowd for another of his own kind.” – Doris Lessing, The Fifth Child

“You guys are amazing.” – Martin Wilson, What They Always Tell Us

“I watch my hands pretend they’re birds and then I take a sip of my coffee, and he takes a sip of his and we’re sort of pleased with ourselves, with what feels like a revelation but isn’t.” – Mary Miller, Big World

“Ja viens. Why not?” – Norman Rush, Mating

“Time ends each sentence with and.” – Craig Morgan Teicher, Cradle Book

“Though sometimes in my brain I go back to that afternoon, to relive it, sail up there again toward the acoustic panels, the basketball hoops, and the old oak clock, the careful harmonies set loose from our voices so pure and exact and light we wondered later, packing up to leave, how high and fast and far they had gone.” – Lorrie Moore, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

“As they went down the valley in the new fell dark basking nighthawks rose from the dust in the road before them with wild wings and eyes red as jewels in the headlights.” – Cormac McCarthy, Child of God

“She looked, tried to see what he was seeing, drew away from him to touch the wheel, reach for the key.” – Joy Williams, Breaking & Entering

“‘I’m here to help,’ I whisper, and the door swings open.” – George Saunders, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

“She moved over the fields like a bird shadow, then, dropping, soaked dewlike into the soil so that she felt the wheat sprouting from her shoulders, the trees from her thighs while the early stars whispered her secret name.” – Annabel Thomas, The Phototropic Woman

“Someday I shall write about all this in greater detail.” – Peter Handke, A Sorrow Beyond Dreams