Don’t ask me why I’m posting so early. Guess I banged out the assignment in record time working off of the leftover inspiration from last week. I really should have used it up on the novel project…that’s moving far slower than last week, but I guess it’s not all that bad. I got about halfway through chapter ten yesterday evening and I’m almost pleased with the results, so I really can’t complain. Let’s just hope this streak holds out for two more weeks…anyhow. Back to bookends. Disclaimer: not all of these books are novels, per say, in which case I join Josh in the ranks of sandbox-rule-bending. My excuse: I couldn’t find ten novels that I liked the beginnings and endings enough to put here, so you’ll have to deal with it. As you can see, I make up for it by getting up enough courage to post two of my least favorite books in the world because I though I could learn from their bookends. Anyway…
1984 – George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair)
I must confess that I have not read this entire book. I started it a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely, but there were some portions that I felt were too mature for me and I put it down until I was ready for it. It’s now on my reading list for June’s family roadtrip. I do remember that the phraseology was very unique, especially for a book of its time, and I thought I’d look and see what its “bookends” were. Very cool, it turns out. The very first sentence, even though it starts out relatively normal-sounding, tells you that this is a very different sort of book with the “striking thirteen”. As for the closing sentences…well, I don’t know their significance since I have yet to finish the book, but from what I have seen of it, they seem almost like they are a paradox…or an oxymoron. Whatever it is, it’s cool!
First sentence: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
Last sentences: But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.
Rose in Bloom – Louisa May Alcott
I can never quite decide if I like Louisa May Alcott’s writing style. It’s very engaging but a little annoying as well, and I can’t put my finger on just what annoys me about it. Anyhow, Rose in Bloom and its prequel, Eight Cousins, were much more enjoyable to me than the more popular Little Women for unknown reasons. And as soon as I heard what this week’s assignment was, I thought of the closing line of Rose in Bloom. The beginning sentence isn’t the greatest (one of those mildly and unreasonably annoying Alcott-esque sentences), but the last line has always seemed particularly good to me…it is almost like Alcott got this sudden burst of inspiration and wrote the last page all in one moment, and then left it un-sanded. So even though it has rough edges and could be made “better”, I’m glad that she left it as she did so that we get to see that initial inspiration. Does that make any sense at all?
First sentence: Three young men stood together on a wharf one bright October day, awaiting the arrival of an ocean steamer with an impatience which found a vent in lively skirmishes with a small lad, who pervaded the premises like a will-o’-the-wisp, and afforded much amusement to the other groups assembled there.
Last sentence: “Please God, we will!” he answered fervently; and, looking at her as she stood there in the spring sunshine, glowing with the tender happiness, high hopes, and earnest purposes that make life beautiful and sacred, he felt that now the last leaf had folded back, the golden heart lay open to the light, and his Rose had bloomed.
The Story of a Bad Boy – Thomas Bailey Aldrich
This is, to my knowledge, the first book of its kind, though by no means the last. It predates and, in my opinion and Teddy Roosevelt’s, is superior to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Fin. It’s…well, I’ll let Tom Bailey speak for himself. (Random side note: why is it that all the bad little boys in literature are named Tom?)
First sentences: This is the story of a bad boy. Well, not such a very bad, but a pretty bad boy; and I ought to know, for I am, or rather I was, that boy myself.
Last sentence: So ends the Story of a Bad Boy – but not such a very bad boy, as I told you to begin with.
The House at Pooh Corner – A. A. Milne
When I told my brother that I was going to do The House at Pooh Corner for this assignment, he said, “What?! Carreen. Seriously.” And you most likely are thinking the same thing. But. Seriously. I think this book ends so, so well…happy and sad and perfect. That’s the very best way for a book to end, in my most humble opinion. As for the beginning…well, it’s Winnie-ther-Pooh. So it begins well, too. Hey, that rhymes…
First sentence: One day when Pooh Bear had nothing else to do, he thought he would do something, so he went round to Piglet’s house to see what Piglet was doing.
Last sentences: So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.
The Red Badge of Courage – Steven Crane
Just for the record…I read this book a few years ago and was utterly, thoroughly bored out of my mind by it. It began well enough, with the very believable struggle of a young soldier with courage during the American Civil War. But after a while (translated: two pages) it seemed like it was all the same: full of meaningless, though good, descriptions and the incredibly depressing and strangely detached thought processes of a boy beating himself up over his lack of courage. Over and over and over. Aaaaahhhh! How did it become an American classic? *recovers self* So, why am I featuring this book? Because I think it begins and ends very well and powerfully. It’s the interminable chapters between that I hated. Like I said, the beginning was fine, even good. The ending was absolutely gorgeous, simply because it meant the end of the book! But putting my prejudice aside, I do think the “bookends” of this book are quite good. I will even go so far as to say that I think the right-hand bookend in particular has reached that level of writing where words become an art form, and I’m willing to learn from it if not from the rest of the book.
First sentences: The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. As the landscape changed from brown to green, the army awakened, and began to tremble with eagerness at the noise of rumors.
Last sentence: The smoke was tinted rose-hue from the flames, and perhaps the unutterable midnights of the universe will have no power to daunt the color of this soul.
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkein
Despite my dislike of the Lord of the Rings books (the movies were really quite good), I enjoyed The Hobbit very much. It was fun, lighthearted, childish, and it showed off the talent that Tolkein has with words – the Lord of the Rings trilogy just covered it up with excessive descriptions of places and events that had very little bearing on the series, BUT. That is beside the point. Even though I wouldn’t say it was a favorite, The Hobbit has a lot of fun-ness and you can tell just by reading the first and the last portions of it.
First sentences: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat; it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
Last sentence: ‘Thank goodness!’ said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.
Peter Pan – J. M. Barrie
Well, I read this a very, very long time ago and thought that it was…a very, very strange book. But the other night I was at my six-year-old cousin’s Peter Pan play and was reminded of some of the fun quirks in the story. With this assignment in mind, I went and looked up the first chapter online. Two paragraphs in, I decided that I want to read it again now that I’m old enough to appreciate the backwards writing. It’s such a cool book in such an odd way and I think I’m going to love it! So this is why I love children’s books so much…*happy sigh*…it’s on my reading list now, right next to 1984.
First sentence: All children, except one, grow up.
Last sentence: When Margaret grows up, she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter’s mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.
The Screwtape Letters
Congratulate me, because for once I really have nothing to ramble about before I type the sentences!
First sentences: My dear Wormwood, I note what you say about guiding your patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïve?
Last sentence: Most truly do I sign myself your increasingly and ravenously affectionate uncle, Screwtape
So…this was, without doubt, the worst reading experience I have ever experienced. This was far, far worse than The Red Badge of Courage, which I began voluntarily at my grandfather’s recommendation and finished semi-voluntarily under the influence of a strange sort of rebellion that keeps me from letting boring books beat me into submission (I will confess, however, that I knuckled under to LOTR one-quarter through Return of the King) or letting cats beat me at staring contests. I finished Plato’s Republic in pure misery only because it was a school assignment. I’m reliving the painful experience now because a.) I need another book to round out this Sandbox assignment and b.) I want you all to see how deceivingly innocent bookends can be. Plato’s Republic begins harmlessly enough. Then all these “philosophers” take over, tear the world to pieces, and put it back together backwards in an attempt to answer a “question”, and then end with an upside-down world and still no answer! For all the good it does, you could just take the first and last sentences and not be any the less wise. Plato’s Republic just takes you on a dizzying merry-go-round of nasty utopian dreams and when you get off the ride you have no idea what just happened. All you know is that you feel sick. Figuratively, of course…but almost literally.
First sentence: I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon the son of Ariston, that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess; and also because I wanted to see in what manner they would celebrate the festival, which was a new thing.
Last sentence: And it shall be well with us both in this life and in the pilgrimage of a thousand years which we have been describing.
The Last Battle – C. S. Lewis
This first sentence kills me because it starts out so grandiose and fairy-tale-ish, only to end with the un-climactic “Ape.” Unexpected, to say the least. And as to the final sentences, let me just say that this book forever changed the way I think about heaven. I used to wonder sometimes if I could really be happy in heaven when all of the strong, intimate relationships that I have/will have here on earth will look so very different in heaven. After all, we will not “marry nor be given in marriage” and everything will be changed from the way we know it. But the way that Lewis put it was incredible. The only reason that we love aspects of this earth is because…sometimes…they look a little like heaven. We fall in love with the shadow because sometimes the dark outline resembles like the real thing. Yes, heaven will be different, but it will be infinitely greater than we could ever imagine. And that is when life really starts.
First sentence: In the last days of Narnia, far up to the west beyond Lantern Waste and close beside the great waterfall, there lived an Ape.
Last sentence: And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.