Thursday, 22 July 2010

On Book Endings

I've been thinking about the endings of great books a lot recently. Mostly in connection to Portrait. I was so disappointed with the ending of Portrait when I was in AP English. I had read Dubliners for funsies during our Friday reading hours (greatly impressing my teacher) and I remember the Dead had taken forever for me to finish. But once I got to the last paragraph I knew I was reading something amazing.

"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

Like... so amazing. And then two years later I would read Ulysses in my Irish Lit class. By that point I was a converted Joyce worshipper. Ulysses, of course, has a fantastic ending, a reward at the end of Molly Bloom's dense soliloquy:

"and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

My professor taught us that the uppercase Yes. meant that the novel was overall life affirming. Which since I essentially read the novel through her lense, I agree with.

Portrait's ending, however, took me longer to love. When I first read it I couldn't understand why this amazing book ended in such a lackluster way. On another note, it's also interesting how much I identified with Stephen when I first read it. I don't get it.

Anyways, everytime I return to the ending through the years I like it more and more. In the past week or so a particular "chapter" in the ending has really hit me. I'll write it out for all of you (aka all 3 of you):

15 April: Met her today pointblank in Grafton Street. The crowd brought us together. We both stopped. She asked me why I never came, said she had heard all sorts of stories about me. This was only to gain time. Asked me, was I writing poems? About whom? I asked her. This confused her more and I felt sorry and mean. Turned off that valve at once and opened the spiritual-heroic refrigerating apparatus, invented and patented in all countries by Dante Alighieri. Talked rapidly of myself and my plans. In the midst of it unluckily I made a sudden gesture of a revolutionary nature. I must have looked like a fellow throwing a handful of peas into the air. People began to look at us. She shook hands a moment after and , in going away, said she hoped I would do what I said.

Now I call that friendly, don't you?

Yes, I liked her today. A Little of much? Don't know. I liked her and it seems a new feeling to me.

According to the ever knowledgeable sparknotes, this moment symbolizes how Stephen has gotten over his mythologizing of women. He can now view them as people. It also offers a moment, in my mind, where we finally get to see Stephen act human. His emotions and reactions are so real, and only marginally filled with intellectual references.

But I don't know. Fun times.

ooooppp the point of me posting that quote was the fact that it now reminds me a lot of the greatest Irish song EVER, which I've posted like 20 times but whatever:

They kind of go along together right?

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