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The Last Page, a Deconstruction

As a writer, I painstakingly extract words from my selfish and lazy brain so that each sentence, each clause, even each pithy phrase, will sound absolutely perfect. After all, words, specifically the relationships between words who live next door to each other, are That important. As well they should be–I’m a Writer.

As a reader, that sounds like a bunch of hogwash I just found on the bottom of my shoe. Goddamnit! I hate it when I step on *@!&.

I mean, what does it really matter? What are all those words for anyway? 700 pages of Crime & Punishment. 1500 pages of War & Peace. And please do not mention the name Howard Roark to me. I might kill myself AGAIN. Who is it all for? Does the author think we will really read what they’ve written, line by line, word for word? And, if we are so bored as to read 40 pages of nonsense from the most gifted writer of all time, does anyone think we will actually remember it?

Personally, I read the last page first and go from there.

People usually give me the “weird girl in the corner” look when I admit to reading last pages first, but I do. And I admit to it because I have a theory that a well-written story is good even when you know what happens in the end. Isn’t that why we continue to watch Casablanca even though we know how it ends? Or why classic ESPN exists? Or why seeing the Season Finale of any show will make you want to go back and watch it again, from the beginning?

No one listens to a CD in the order it was recorded. Right? The order means something to the artist because it’s their storyline, but it doesn’t mean diddly squat to us. It’s perfectly acceptable to skip song 3, because the lyrics aren’t as good as song 4, or maybe we’re not in the mood for track 1 that day. It was overplayed on the radio before the CD was ever released. Admit it; if you could pop in a CD and skip to the Bonus Track at the end, you’d do it.

It’s actually more meaningful to watch Rachel walk into that coffee shop in her wedding dress and see Ross pour the sweet-n-low in her coffee if we already know that these two unlikely suspects will not just weave in and out of love over the next decade, but will end standing, holding hands, and ride into the sunset to live happily ever after. Well, that might be another storyline, but you get the point.

So, the next time you read a book, try it my way:

1. Read the last page. If it doesn’t make you wonder why “that” happened, you should put it back down and forget about it. If it does make you wonder why “that” happened…

2. Skim the first 50 or so pages. Those are the ones the writer had to get exactly right for anyone in the publishing world to look at it, which mean they suck the hardest.

3. Somewhere around page 64, the story will start to get good. The writer has now lost all ability to control their characters. People begin to say things they wish they hadn’t. Parents begin to lose their temper. Someone might jump off a bridge and someone else might let them. At this point, you should cancel all appointments and plan to not put the book down. Continue to read, but skip the dialogue. It doesn’t matter and you won’t remember it.

4. Between 24 hours and 24 days later, you’ll surface from the story that has now become your sole existence and realize that Jane isn’t really Dick’s wife because Jane doesn’t exist. For that matter, neither does Dick. It’s possible that Spot might still exist; you’re not sure, so you ask the mailman, who gives you the same look my mom gave me when I asked what was in the clam chowder that made it taste so good.

5. After you pee and dose your stinky ass in some floral body spray, you can savor the last chapter, right down to the 3 or 4 sentences on the last page that you started with. “Right,” you say to yourself. (You now talk out loud because, well, your friends and family, including the hot delivery guy, have all stopped calling.) “I remember this. This is why I read the book in the first place. This is the good part, the even better part, now that I’ve read the novel.”

Trust me: writers, who aren’t geniuses, save the best sentences for last. They don’t realize they’re doing it, which is why it’s so good. Perhaps they’ve run out of steam; more likely, they’ve long ago sat back and allowed the story to play out as it must. For there are no new stories; thus, no new endings. At this point, the author is only a medium, the means to an end, the one who holds the Quill. Not unlike our parents, when we were 5-years-old and learning to ride without training wheels, with their efficient smiles and clinched fists, waiting for us to circle around. Not unlike us, 30 years later, when our children turn into the driveway, sighing, contented to be back in the familiarity of a task that’s at its end.

26 responses to “The Last Page, a Deconstruction”

  1. Avatar angelatav says:

    "Skim the first 50 or so pages. Those are the ones the writer had to get exactly right for anyone in the publishing world to look at it, which mean they suck the hardest."
    I know it's' only 5:17 in the morning, but this made me want to jump up from my seat and clap like a lunatic. Hooray!

  2. Avatar sn0tteh says:

    I guess if we were talking about sex, I'd have the orgasm first and save the rest for when I had the time. Which is never.
    PS: the unpublished writer in me who has written the first 50 pages of suck in my book is highly offended. Also nodding profusely.

  3. Avatar Corinne says:

    Skip the dialogue? No way. But you're right about the first 50 pages. So sad we have to pander to those publisher-types.

  4. Avatar D.Pasquarelli says:

    I have to say that I kind of disagree. I think that that beauty and magic in an epic novel, such as War and Peace or The Brothers Dostoyevski, besides the exquisitely crafted sentences, pages and paragraphs is the process of it all. I truly enjoy getting to know the people in the story and seeing how the story unfolds. The mystery of not knowing the end makes the journey more interesting. I know what you mean about the first fifty pages but I think that the number of pages is proportionate to the overall length of the book i.e. War and Peace takes about 200 hundred pages to get into and care about the characters but in The Sun also Rises you are invested in the first 25 pages. Just 2 cnets worth.

    • Avatar llxt says:

      well, you're obviously more patient than i am, a quality that will serve you well in the coming months of parenthood! 😉 poe argued that the short story was the "highest" form of literature, and i tend to agree. so, there you have it: i'm biased.

      • Avatar DBP says:

        Yeah I love novels, long ones but I am also a fan of the short story and I really like historical and sociological non-fiction. Hemingway is actuall my favorite American author and I love his short stories yet I still feel that a short story is like a snap-shot compared to the full-length feature film or mini-series that is a novel.

        • Avatar llxt says:

          actually, a short story contains all of the same elements as a “long” story…it just has less words. (sorry: nerdy english teacher take-over).

      • Avatar tee says:

        I can't even tell a decent short story verbarlly! So, I'm with "the Great "a"" when I say, those who can write the short story well, are gifted. My favorite it still "The Yellow Wallpaper".

  5. Avatar JoshBrown says:

    I decided to stop reading, and now I listen to audio books on my iPhone. It makes me feel "hip". But, it's difficult to play the last page without the whole last chapter. So, that says to me, maybe I should stop being so lazy and read a damn book.

    • Avatar llxt says:

      i suppose i should be pro-podcast if i'm so environmentally-hip; but i just can't get into listening over reading. i think it's because i like the sound of my own voice (even the one in my head) better than anyone else's… 😉

  6. Avatar tee says:

    Does that mean once I reach page 50 someone will want to read my close-to-never-ending-someday-starting book? Sigh… oh the work… I mean – i've made it past page 50. . . . but I hate the edting. . . . re-editing. . . edit this part again . . . and the "didn't she have red hair a chapter ago" conversations . . .
    . . . . I read the last page part way through just to make sure I am going to like the ending. If I don't, then what's the point? lol

    • Avatar llxt says:

      i love editing, but not being edited. therefore, i will (probably) never publish anything. which means i'll never get to be an editor. stupid catch-22's!

  7. Printed pages in a novel = blog lines, right? If so, then yes, "page 64" is spot on. Well done, Double-L!

    • Avatar llxt says:

      what are you saying, P? that you haven't read a novel since the internet became popular? or that my blog-writing is as good as james joyce perspiration-saturated prose??? 😉

  8. Jason Jason says:

    The other advantage of reading the end first is to not get burned by a-holes who actually do write their best lines at the beginning and then don't care by they get to the end. Hate those guys! And I'm glad you brought up Poe, who takes this further by writing titles for readers so they didn't have to read his story at all. "What happens in the fall of the House of Usher?" "It fell."
    Marvelous strategy. I'm going to go read the end of Finnegans Wake now. I think I stopped underlining key themes at page 17, so now I have a chance to break through!

    • Avatar llxt says:

      good point. i thought i had trashed the "bigs" enough not to bring that up…but you are right in doing so. stupid, lazy classical writers!!
      i've heard that finnegans wake makes more sense if you actually start at the end and work you way back…let me know if that's true

  9. […] This post was Twitted by 30pov […]

  10. Sadly, I read very little. Unless magazines count! The last book I read was a couple of months back, and it was GREAT! World War Z: The Oral History of the Zombie Apocalypse. Everyone should run out and pick it up.
    I love your writing. Don't kid yourself and stop fishing for compliments 😉

  11. acbauch acbauch says:

    Nothing's more frustrating than reading through a whole book and hating the ending. One time I hated a book ending so much that I threw the book across the room. As one not usually prone to violence and fits of anger, that says a lot.
    So I can agree on reading the last page.
    Or if, at some point in your reading, you suspect that the ending is going to suck, you can sneak a peek and decide if you want to continue the investment of your time and money. After all, if I'm watching a movie, and I don't like it, I will usually stop watching.
    However, I wouldn't fast forward to the end of a movie and then decide if I want to watch it or not. But now that I think about it, if I had fast forwarded to the end of Magnolia to the frog-raining scene, I would have shut it off immediately and used those few hours of my life for something more worthwhile. Hmm. Maybe I need to start watching the last five minutes of movies first now. :0)

    • Avatar llxt says:

      yes, but think of it this way. if you watch a movie and enjoy the last 5 minutes, you will watch it again, right??? even though you already know the ending… so, that should be try if you DO watch the last 5 minutes before watching the entire film…

  12. Avatar F. Pasquale says:

    I totally can't do that… I don't disagree. I started watching LOST in the middle of the first season… took me forever to watch the first 12 eps, but I was still into it.
    I have picked up book series and comics in mid-stream and found them just as fun… you are right it's all about the ride (journey)… or remember those adventure books that used to have a random action page printed in the front of the book?
    That one page could get you into the book (the marketing team would hope).
    But that being said I don't think I could ever take your advice and jump to the end of a book and then go back and read it. I need to have my books slowly peel away it's layers of 'mystery' as I go.
    I don't want to know the end of the Great Gatsby, I want to care abut that crazy bastard and then go "NOOOOO!"
    That's my 2 cents 😉

  13. […] the type of person who reads from cover to cover (the last page notwithstanding).  With the– Can we cut the crap and just call it TNY from now on?? *ahem*  Reading TNY […]

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llxtm About llxtm

LLXTM is the Head Dreamer of this publication and various other projects, including Needle-Movers.com, The Perpetual You, and Ladymade. She has no spare time and yet eeks out moments to spend with her two {human} boys and two {puppy} boys. She can’t wait for spring, aka Covid Gardening, Part II. Follow her @wordsbyleelee on Instagram, or find her on her front porch in Hamden, CT.

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December 2009
Season Finale
November 2009
{Seven Deadly} Sins
October 2009
Mischief Making
September 2009
Green Ethics
August 2009