Two things ended for me today: my annual week at Writers in Paradise at Eckerd College and “The Girl in the Raincoat.” And I’m a little wistful about both, although there’s no way I could sustain the pace of either for much longer.
As it happens, Sterling Watson, one of the directors of the writers conference at Eckerd (his former student, Dennis Lehane, is the other), gave a talk on endings during the week, a provocative one. He argued for feeling as a standard and reviewed some of the best, and best-known, endings. The Dead, The Great Gatsby, and who would argue with those?
It got me to thinking about some endings I love. So here’s a list, and feel free to add to it, but — under the rules of The Memory Project — you can’t look them up first. Try to get them as close as possible, then look them up and see how closely you rendered them.
“And it was still hot.” (Where the Wild Things Are)
“Let’s get stinko.” (Mildred Pierce)
["Yes -- let's get stinko."]
“That’s nice, but I knew something better, a place where dreams came true.”
(Emma Who Saved My Life.)
[". . . that's nice, that's real nice, but I knew a place where the lights were brighter, and the air was filled with dreams."]
“They sleep.” (Homicide)
["They sleep until dark."]
“Now perhaps ve begin to see?” (Portnoy’s Complaint)
["Now ve may perhaps to begin. Yes?"]
“It is your face, it is always for you.” (Endless Love.)
['I see your face, I see you, you; I see you in every seat."]
“Good grief — it’s Daddy!” (Candy.)
My hunch is that only those of us who have made a point of memorizing endings will get many right, but I don’t mind being proved wrong on this point.
My other hunch is that endings need context in order to be great. But so do first lines.