Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Last lines

Back in November 2004, under the title First Lines, I invited readers to identify twenty-five openings to books or short stories. Not surprisingly, for many of them were pretty obscure, the best score I heard about was only six, and that was achieved by a teacher of English.

Here, for the benefit of anyone who is housebound, whose TV is on the blink or who seeks an excuse for not starting some dreary chore which should have been done yesterday, are twenty-five last lines. They are from various kinds of books, stories, diaries, or essays. Before you look at the answers, have a go and give yourself one point for each source identified and one point for each author.

I have all these books, but five of them I have not read right through and never will. No less than seven of the authors were women, the saucy little minxes. Sixteen were written in this or the 20th century, and at least fifteen have been filmed (most of them more than once). Three of the authors and two of the books also featured in First Lines. There is one catch question.

People get very depressed when they score zero at this sort of thing, so this time some are very easy.

1: Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.

2: We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped.

3: Reader, I married him.

4: They stood for a moment at the balustrade and looked at Trafalgar Square. Cabs and omnibuses hurried to and fro, and cabs passed, hastening in every direction, and the sun was shining.

5: Certain vegetables or substances which partake of the nature both of vegetable and animals.

6: Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.

7: He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not until they had examined the rings that they recognised who it was.

8: The tomb bore the names of Tom and Maggie Tulliver, and below the names it was written—“In their death they were not divided”.

9: The gun, Bill Roach had finally convinced himself, was after all a dream.

10: ‘Tootle-oo to you,’ she said. ‘But you’ll be seeing me again.’
And the curlew fluted once more.

11: Then the schoolmaster glanced instinctively at the red ribbon which adorned the Senator’s button-hole. The latter noticed his glance.
‘Well, who knows?’ PiĆ©chut said. [translation]

12: And now I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers—shrivelled now, and brown and flat and brittle—to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man.

13: …the men in bowler hats, the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, the red buses, the blue policemen—all sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs.

14: The papers report more falls of snow, out-lying farms and villages in Yorkshire, East Lothian, and in the Highlands are entirely isolated by the deep snow.

15: ‘Simmonds, Chiltern Street, London W1,’ she wrote, ‘Coming home’. But, after a moment, she thought that this was not entirely accurate and, crossing out the words ‘Coming home’, wrote simply ‘Returning’.

16: I went straight to Redriff, where I arrived the same day at two in the afternoon, and found my wife and family in good health.

17: The men began singing, a grave, slow song that drifted away into the night. Soon the road was empty. All that remained of the German regiment was a little cloud of dust. [translation]

18: At first, amid the applause of the gods, he betrayed a trifle of his old self-consciousness and awkwardness. This passed away as the puppies’ antics and mauling continued, and he lay with half-shut, patient eyes, drowsing in the sun.

19: ...in whom alone the love, and the tenderness, and the purity, and the strength, and the courage, and the wisdom of all these dwell forever in perfect fulness.

20: Even the mature historian’s privilege of setting forth conversations of which he knows only the gist is one that I have availed myself of hardly at all.

21: I straightened the tie. I pulled down the waistcoat. I shot the cuffs. I felt absolutely all-righto.
‘Lead me to her,’ I said.

22: We stared at it for a long time, trying to work it out. Martin was right. It didn’t look as though it was moving, but it must have been, I suppose.

23: But it was so far away that the four peaks looked trifling, hardly distinguishable, and different from the way they looked from the farm. The outline of the mountain was slowly smoothed and levelled out by the hand of distance.

24: Though her hands were imprecise blurs, paint heaped on paint and rolled with the brush, the rest of her skin had been expertly rendered in all its variety—chalky whites and lively pinks, the underlying blue of her veins and the ever present human hint of yellow, intimation of what is to come.

25: Had meal with Lou at 5.30, saw the News, watched the dreary saga of murder and mayhem. By 6.30 pain in the back was pulsating as its never done before… so this, plus the stomach trouble combines to torture me – oh – what’s the bloody point?

A good note to end on, I thought.

11 comments:

Minerva said...

You DEVIL...
Some of these are fiendish.. I have recognised a couple, that is all. I can't believe I have so little memory, rather than face the substantial truth that I may not have read them in the first place!
As for naming authors too, you have a very sadistic streak in you Tony!

Kelly said...

I'm terribly sad to say that my score consisted only of one "That's Jack... well, the one about the dog" and one "Bertie!".
I had, up to this point, considered myself well read; now I'm obligated to go to your First Lines post to complete my humiliation.

Still, I do enjoy your blog very much.

Tony said...

Never mind, Kelly, many a bookworm didn't got any. But you should have guessed No 1 and No 7, and No 8 was easy if you've read the book.

Minerva said...

Yes, number 1 is of a phrase, isn't it?
Number 3, of course and likewise number 8.

Number 7 I should have but was misled by Tolkien (blush)

Followed by several authors I have read but not the same books - covering herself mightily...

Face it, fretwork would be a better hobby...

Anonymous said...

I dont know Tony,
The Bible ?

Tony said...

Mr/Ms Anonymous (or may I call you Anon?:
Well, No. 1 might be the Bible, or it might not. You'll have to look at the answers.
Is this the only one you've tried, or the only one you couldn't instantly identify?

Stu Savory said...

Number 6 : the 9 billion names of God.

OMG, do I only read SF?

Tony said...

How should I know?

Froog said...

I spotted the Song of Solomon, and Johnson's Dictionary (a guess, but a fairly obvious one), Dorian Gray, The Mill On The Floss. And the Wodehouse, of course, though I couldn't place the story.

I was annoyed I missed Tinker Tailor (which I did recognise the first line of in your other quiz), The Time Machine, Gulliver, White Fang, and I, Claudius.

And I think you were being harsh with Jane Eyre. You represented this selection as being all last lines, and it seems harsh to attempt to penalise your patient readers for omitting to correct you. Frankly, I think I deserve bonus points for recognising your error but being too gracious to bring it up (oops!).

Tony said...

No bonus points for you: catch questions are perfectly legitimate. And if you had spotted it before you looked up the answers I'm sure you would have complained. Gracious? Ha!

It is not possible to be too harsh on JE: she is a whiny little pain: JA would never have created anyone like her.

Froog said...

Yes, rather agree with you on that. Dreadful book - the forerunner of 'chick lit'. The early bit about her childhood is quite nicely done, but it's all downhill after that.