100 Best Last Lines from Novels

Matt Yglesias, who first pointed me to this list of the 100 Best Last Lines of Novels [PDF], complained that Gatsby was robbed at No. 3:

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

Respectable. The only line that came to my mind before looking at the list was Hemingway’s:

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

So, by default, that’s my “best.” Papa came in at No. 6, behind Beckett, Ellison, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and Twain.

Related: the quality seems to drop rather abruptly after the first dozen or so. Am I wrong?


One response to “100 Best Last Lines from Novels

  1. Agreed. I was going to blog about this, but eh (also, the list is several years old. Wonder why it’s only getting traction now). I was struck by how few books that I’ve actually read were on this list. I sort of just finished it and thought “Welp, I’m done with this.”

    It seems like an arbitrary list to make, doesn’t it? I guess last lines are significant by virtue of their being the last line, but is a book, or even an ending itself, not good just because the last line is not good? Would we make a list of the 100 Best Middle Lines from novels? Aside from a few last lines that are particularly yearbook-quote worthy (or, as it were, gravestone worthy http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/2339597472/), I can’t remember that many last lines from novels.

    And for the record, the debate about last lines begins and ends (pun intended) with Ulysses. Period. End of sentence.

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