Reading the Last Page of the Book Is Not a Crime

Break in the Weather, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

I regularly indulge in a dreadful habit.

Actually, I am a teeming mass of bad habits, but it’s best to address just one at a time so that you won’t be overwhelmed and give up on me.

This one involves picking up a book, reading through the first several chapters, and then flipping to the back to see how things turn out.

Now to my mind, this is no worse than my bookkeeping technique of estimating how much I’ve spent this month, subtracting that from what I’ve started with, and calling it good if the bank says I’ve got more money than the number I approximate.

I mentioned this to an accountant friend of mine and she gaped in horror.

Granted, I expect higher standards from an accountant (she probably uses a calculator), but it’s not as if I let the dog lick the baby’s ice cream cone or anything.

Similarly, checking out a book’s ending isn’t cheating so much as it is protecting myself from undue emotional harassment – looking ahead, planning for the future, all that positive seminar type stuff. It’s certainly not a crime that warrants a visit on the porch by a couple of deputy sheriffs and a piece of official paper.

September, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

And yet, by many people’s reaction, it’s as if I admitted to letting that baby back there eat flies out of the dog dish – while the dog snuggles in the blankie.

Look at it from my perspective: we’re talking about a 500-page book involving Roberto and Gwendolyn, and the three of us are going to be spending a lot of time together, as night after night on the sofa I allow their miserably chaotic and unrealistically audacious lives intertwine with mine.

I know that – in the process of averting nuclear meltdown in a remote South Sea Island that has been secretly taken over by vampire zombie aliens – Roberto and Gwendolyn are going to deal with some major issues, especially when Norman enters the picture (chapter 6), Gwendolyn’s dog dies (chapter 8), and somehow Roberto gets convinced that Gwendolyn and Norm were working together to bump him off when they accidentally shot the dog.

This is all fine, actually, and no less than what I expect.

I also, however, expect for everything to tie up neatly at the end and for everyone who is supposed to be happy – namely Roberto and Gwendolyn – to truly end up blissful, together, with a new dog. I don’t care what happens to Norman.

Al Fresco, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

An increasing number of writers, however, delight in stringing along the reader for 498 pages with murky promises of eventual closure, only to spend the last two pages ravaging the lives of their characters beyond repair or care, all in the name of authenticity and truth.

(I’m not sure if they’ve noticed, but vampire zombie aliens aren’t real.)

For some reason, many self-professed deep thinking intellectuals define reality as unmitigated desolation, despondency, and despair, broken up here and there by the occasional smile, sunny day, or successful birthday party.

As an English major in college, I had the unfortunate experience of having to read novels by these people. I almost switched to physics.

Now I am not naïve enough to think that bad things don’t happen. Bad things happen to all of us, every single day, and for that reason I look for the total opposite in my reading pleasure.

That’s why it’s called reading “pleasure.”

And if you’ve never done it, it’s more challenging than you think to check out the last page of a novel without learning too much, especially in a mystery story.

“I can’t believe Roberto did it.”

NO!!!!!

Not Roberto!

“Poor Gwendolyn.”

Poor me as well. How am I going to finish this book?

“I love you, Gwendolyn.”

“I love you too, Roberto.”

Sigh. That’s all I wanted to know. God is in His heaven, and all’s right in my little world. I can go back to chapter 3 now.

Steve Henderson, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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10 Responses to Reading the Last Page of the Book Is Not a Crime

  1. Pam says:

    I’m right there with you! I don’t want to put all that time and emotion into a book just to be let down or ticked off because the author chooses an ending different from the one that is alluded to throughout the book!

  2. tina filbert says:

    oh. my. gosh. me too!! =D
    YES!! we should have a club. a reading PLEASURE book club where we are all happily allowed to peek at the end of a book without castigation. ; ) . and only books where you come out of finishing it happier or more fulfilled than when you went into it, and not visa versa.
    be assured dearie, i love all of your witty funny pleasant blogs, i just dont get them all commented on, as unfortunately busy life intervenes.
    many thanks for the jollies you bring to my email box. xo

    • What a lovely reading club this will be! Actually, we already have it — we just don’t know all of the other members, but on our own, we read what we like, the way we like, and sail on.

      Life happens, Tina, and I am grateful to add some jollies to your e-mail box. Days go easier when they start — and end — with a smile!

  3. wanderingseniors says:

    hahaha – I love the headline! I never read the ending first; I guess I wasn’t much of a rebel. 🙂

  4. Dianne says:

    I’m chiming in with a “me too.” Especially when it’s like one I read a while back (by a very popular author stocked in grocery stores everywhere) where the lead character arrives in D.C. in the morning at her new house, the movers arrive (the fact they arrived on the right day sends this to the pure Fiction section) the same morning (?), unpack her stuff, set it up, and leave in time for her to dress and make it to a business lunch (this moves it into the Fantasy area). This sent me right to the end to see if it was going to be worth suspending that much disbelief! I read the thing, but the jury is still out on it’s literary value.

  5. Don’t forget how trim and attractive she looks in the little black dress that she wears to that sellout art show.

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