The Last Gasp?

The criminal mastermind behind A Confrontation with Falling has been busy posting on the Readings St Kilda Blog.

He’s come up with a pearler of an idea: a book of last lines.  And he’s put together some last-gasps from the best of the best, the heavyweight titans of world literature.

Definitely Ayn Rand’s closing dross is the worst I’ve ever read in all of human creation.

Atlas Shrugged: He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.

Cover Artwork to Atlas Shrugged

Cover Artwork to Atlas Shrugged

Now compare that absolute rubbish with something as profoundly Zeno-parodoxical as this mind-boggler by Dr. Seuss.

Green Eggs & Ham:I would not like them here or there./ I would not like them anywhere./ I do not like green eggs and ham./ I do not like them Sam I Am.

But where, Mr Miles, is the FINAL line?  The last word in all of literature?  The granddaddy of all last lines?  From where can we source it.

Well, you can probably all guess where my vote goes.

Moby-Dick: Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.

Original Cover of The Whale

Original Cover of The Whale

Here’s my throwaway idea: how abouta book that sequences the first line, middle line, and last line of all the great works of literature.

That way all those people who publish ridiculous titles like How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read could catch up.  A whole book reduced to Twitter-size!  That’s the way of the future – which reminds me, this fellow, was posting the whole of Moby-Dick, blow by blow, on Twitter.  Ah, but he stopped, what a crying shame.


Filed under Books

11 responses to “The Last Gasp?

  1. Meg

    I concur with your vote! Though the last line of The Sound and the Fury is also pretty good: “They endured.”

    FWIW, there was a complete, full-text Twitter feed of Moby-Dick at It finished last month, and that guy is now onto Alice in Wonderland.

  2. Thanks for the tip-off Meg.

    I wondered what had happened to him.

    I see Alice In Wonderland is up and running now – well, that’s a book I’ve got a lot of time for too. Not quite up there with The Whale but not too far off.

    Oh and Faulkner… Damn straight. No more needs be said.

  3. Lyman Taiste

    What is the problem with Atlas shrugged. That is one of the greats of human achievement ranking along side Walden and Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance etc.
    You don’t like money?

    • Ha!

      Well, it’s not that I don’t like money. it’s that money doesn’t, in my view, make a particularly good foundation for a philosophy. The dollar sign that Rand would see imprinted everywhere (and which we pretty much do see everywhere in this day and age) doesn’t provide any means for us to live a good and meaningful life. It allows us to buy things; but as the old adage goes, one cannot buy happiness.

      Now, Walden, is a fine work and you won’t find me complaining about it. Zen & The Art , well, I did read it when I was a teenage and really loved it. But some of the gloss has gone off it now that I’m a bit older.

      What’s your stance, Lyman, do you worship at the altar of the dollar sign like Ms Rand?

  4. Brendan

    Actually, money makes a perfect philosophical foundation; at least the idea behind it is. Money is a placeholder for good ideas. Its what allows people to buy product they desire using what they have made from their own mental and physical capacities at work. If you are good at being a reasonable, reality oriented human being, you make enough money to get the things you desire. Seems okay to me. Money gets a bad rap nowadays.

    See, I worship myself, or, the best part of myself, my reasoning mind. Its the one thing that allows me to do everything else I do in life. It provides for me, of my own volition, and yeah, it makes me money wich I use to support myself and live my life.

    Worshippng the dollar is worshipping mans reason.


    Thats all I have to say.

  5. Salim

    As an Atlas Shrugged fan I agree with you, the last line was horrible. It was a huge let down at the end of a good book. In fact I’m convinced that Rand didn’t know how to end her books. Anthem, another book that I enjoyed for it’s message, suffers from horrible ending syndrome as well.

    My personal favorite last line, and the only one I’ve committed to memory is: “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”

    • I recently read an article in the Economist about Rand which has made me reevaluate her. Not that I think she is any better than before – I still don’t think much of her writing or her philosophy. But she was definitely and intriguing figure and much more complicated than often portrayed by those that don’t like her or agree with her.

      I haven’t read enough of her books, Salim, to know if she does suffer from this inability to end syndrome. But you could well be on the money (no Randish pun intended). And which novel is the quote from?

      • Salim

        “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” is the first line of the first book as well as the last time of the final book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

        These books had a very interesting effect on my reading. The Gunslinger, the first, hooked me on reading King. I couldn’t get enough and I enjoyed how almost all of his work revolved around the Dark Tower story. The interesting part is that once he finished the series I finished with him. I have no desire to ever read another Stephen King book ever again.

        The Dark Tower experience spanned over a decade for me and I’m glad that I read them, I enjoyed every page and waited with anticipation for years between installments. I can’t explain the finality of completing the series but it is a very real thing.

  6. Travis Gordon

    I like the last line of “The Great Gatsby,” and the whole closing paragraph, pretty much. But here’s the last line:

    “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. “

    • Mmm yes, that is damn good.

      Makes me think of Hemingway’s Old Man & the Sea too, which has a nice finality to it: ‘Up the road, in his shack, the old man was sleeping again. He was still sleeping on his face and the boy was sitting by him watching him. The old man was dreaming about the lions.’

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