Two guys, P & T, go into a bookstore, browsing.
- I always like to read the last sentence of a book before I buy it. I find that it tells me most about the book, says P.
- Yeah, me too. Most people grab a book and look at the first sentence, or a bit of the first few pages, agrees T.
- Mistake. First few sentences writer dude's trying hard to grab the publisher's attention, you know, like publish this book and give money, sorta thing. It's not actually what the reader would like he's thinking of, but what he thinks the publisher will think the reader will like. You know how many subsequent classics have been knocked back by wanker publishers? Lots, it's fucking criminal. The first sentence can be annoying, but the book still amazingly good. Or the sentence good but the book crap, like the stuff you read.
- Ha ha. But yeah, never thought of *why* I do it, but you're spot on there. The last sentence or two are about tidying up the plot, the characters. Dude's only trying hard to impress the reader, make the reader satisfied. Well not always of course, but you know what I mean.
They nod. Such perfect agreement between people is rare.
T, a genre fiction addict, recommends to P a couple of science-fantasy-speculative-horror-magic/realism cult books which he thought everyone should read, but P hasn't.
" 'Don't ask me why, old sport,' said Stoney, 'but somebody up there likes you.' "
"I know nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past."
"He walked away and he kept on walking."
And a few others of varying merit.
P, a pretentious autodidact who uses words like "autodidact" in general conversation, recommends some slipstream books which don't quite fit the genres, as well as some modernist and post-modernist classics which everyone should read but, naturellement T hasn't.
"For a long time there is really nothing to be seen; but after Golgotha's been burning for an hour or two, it becomes possible to see that underneath the shallow water, spreading down the valley floor, right around the isolated boulder where Randy's perched, is a bright thick river of gold."
"And all that is left to me is the sound of snow underfoot."
"It was summoning all the barges on the river, every last one, and the whole city and sky and the countryside and ourselves, to carry us all away, the Seine tooand that would be the end of us."
And he picked up one more of the recommended books and held it open in his hands... And he started to read the last sentence.
P paid for his handful of books, had them demagnetized, placed in a biodegradable bag. He waited by the entrance.
Still waiting, he browsed some more new releases that tempted him. The Pale King. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet... He moved his biodegradable bag from one hand to the other, scratched at his groin as a pubic hair seemed to caught over the end of his cock. This irritated him. It was too long since he had last shaved his balls.
He wanted to call out to T to hurry the fuck up, but in a bookstore such as this one in Carlton, it is like a library but with allegedly cool people who have eyebrow studs and ponytails (males) and pierced lips and blue hair (females) behind the counter, and not little old ladies who always recommend Agatha Christie. It is not cool to yell here.
P gives up. Fuck, I'll go have a long macchiato, he thinks. I'll met T in the coffee shop he loves, the one next door..
His second long macchiato is down, some biscotti down. Despite his shaking hands, he is in a dream world, reading one of the books he has just bought. It is completely weird; moralistic, simplistic, and funny, and he was hooked by the expression "chrono-synclastic infundibula." T is still not back. P sighs, pays the black-clad, blue-haired waitress with the stud though her lip and heads back to the bookstore and find T, last seen reading over 30 minutes ago.
T is standing where he left him, still immersed in the book, turning a page.
- Come on mate, I thought you were only going to read the last sentence!
- I am.
- What the fuck book are you reading?
- You recommended it, man.
He turns to book over to show P the cover.
[Sorry about that folks - it was just meant to be a three line joke but as usual, I got carried a way. The real Tom, from whom this completely imaginary conversation originated when he joked about the title of this post being on a t-shirt somewhere (or something like that), has neither (all) the characteristics of the hyopthetical T nor (all) those of the hypothetical P, but he is a well-read bastard. Both characters, says E@L, c'est moi.
And there is purely the smug satisfaction of being a wanker dilettante like E@L for those who can tell me which books are quoted above: they are last lines, of course. OK, a candy bar or a Guinness, your choice, if you can get more than five. I'm presuming most people I know will get the book T is reading... If not, I'm getting some new friends.]
* The author added this sentence as an afterthought in order to prevent him from writing a sequel, as in hey, she's dead. It didn't work. (Thanks Paul.)