Tag Archives: The Dead

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Beginnings/Endings of Books

Top Ten TuesdayThe Broke and The Bookish have thrown down the gauntlet once again, challenging fellow book bloggers to list the best beginnings and endings of books. Regular readers will remember that I pretty much covered my favourite beginnings in this post‘A Good Opening Line Can Make All the Difference’, so I think I’ll focus on endings here.

1. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, ‘So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.’

Listen to him read it here: 

Race2. Race by Studs Terkel, ‘I look at older people now and I love them. My father is beautiful…he says things that I think are crazy, and a few years later I find out that it wasn’t so crazy. That guy knew what he was talking about. If somehow we could get objectivity. If there were some big universal mirror…
   I have faith we can mature. Stranger things have happened. Maybe America, maybe the world is in its adolescence. Maybe we’re driving home from the prom, drunk, and nobody knows whether we’re going to survive or not. Maybe we’ll survive and maybe we’ll be a pretty smart old person, well-adjusted and mellow.
   I am guardedly optimistic- definitely guardedly. If everything is going to hell, it would be hard for me to get up in the morning. But I can’t honestly say, “sure, things will get better.” We might not make it home from the prom.’ 

3. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, ‘Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’

Color Purple4. The Color Purple, Alice Walker, ‘But I don’t think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt.’

5. James Joyce’s The Dead, ‘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.’

6. Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck (look out for a review later this week), ‘”I have not been so happy since I was a child,” she told them. “I remember now that when I was a child I loved to run into the rain-‘…
   “Heaven sends the rain,” she said. “How can I, a mortal, command the clouds?”‘
   But they insisted, and she could see they desired eagerly to praise her.
   “It is for your sake, Old Buddha, that the rain comes down, the fortunate rain, blessing us all because of you.”
   “Well, well,” she said, and laughed to indulge them. “Perhaps,” she said, “perhaps-“

7. Astrotomato’s Planetfall: All Fall Down, ‘”This story isn’t over.”‘Planetfall

8. William Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest have borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.’

9. Gerry Stoker’s Why Politics Matters ‘Achieving mass democracy was the great triumph of the twentieth century. Learning to live with it will be the great achievement of the twenty-first.’ 

10. Dave Gorman vs. The Rest of The World ‘Do you play any games? Real life, not computer games. Would you like a game?’ 

Full evaluations of the last two can be found in this post about how to effectively end a non-fiction piece. Please not that the numbering is not a ranking, just the order in which they occurred to me.

What do you think of my selections? What are your favourite endings of books? 

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Snow in Literature

I’m with Shelley: ‘I love, snow and all the forms of the radiant frost.’ It is a wonderful symbolic tool in literature. Snow transforms a familiar landscape; it can become a magical wonderland or a bleak and forbidding country. It can cause the world to slow and a certain muffled silence to fall. I’ve collated some of my favourite uses of snow in literature.

Often snow is used to symbolise cleansing. It is a blanket that obscures all, which can either be a new, clean beginning, orSnow Country a blanket obscuring a truth. Throughout Nobel Laureate, Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country, snow is used as a metaphor for the purity the protagonist seeks: ‘The thought of the white linen, spread out on the deep snow, the cloth and the snow glowing scarlet in the rising sun, was enough to make him feel that the dirt of the summer had been washed away, even that he himself had been bleached clean.’ Its use is often similar to the colour white, which is often used to denote purity, light and innocence. See Shakespeare’s use in Cymbeline, for instance, ‘I thought her as chaste as unsunned snow.’ Unsurprisingly, snow is also a theme in The Winter’s Tale, ‘as white as driven snow’.

Ethan FromeSnow and winter are often used to represent sadness, bleakness or death. In Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, the characters are having a rather sad time of it; the weather is used to represent and reinforce this. The character, Zeena, sits out in the cold: ‘the pale light reflected from the banks of snow,’ which makes ‘her face look more than usually drawn and bloodless.’ The lexical field of wintry weather is used figuratively throughout to maintain this sense of bare desolation. This is a description of the kitchen: ‘the deadly chill of a vault after the dry cold of the night.’

Consider the use of snow in James Joyce’s The Dead: ‘His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their latter end, upon all the living and the dead.’ Critics have claimed variously that the use of snow here represents death and desolation and the opportunity for renewal and another chance. For me, it symbolises a sort of togetherness and universalism; the snow falls equally on all.

Our association of snow and Christmas is widely thought to be the fault of Charles Dickens. He employs it in simile here to express just how cold-hearted Scrooge is in A Christmas Carol.

The-Muppet-Christmas-Carol

‘No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely and Scrooge never did.’ The associations of a white Christmas have become idealised from a Dickensian model.

A Child's Christmas in WalesA Child’s Christmas in Wales is another example of snow used to evoke nostalgia about festive seasons past. Dylan Thomas wrote, ‘All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea…It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas.’

Snow is also used excellently in Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials where armoured polar bears rule Svalbard. In C. golden-compass-bearS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, of course, it is always winter and never Christmas. The melting of snow shows that a brighter future is near. Also, I must mention Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman
which says a great deal about friendship, joy and the transience of life.

I hope you’re all staying warm and safe. If you can think of any other snowy examples, I would love to hear them!

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