“When I buy a new book, I read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends,” Harry Burns says classically in my favorite movie, When Harry Met Sally.
Darlings, confession time, I have been known to peek. I know! I know! Bad form. But if I’m falling in love with the book, especially the hero of the story, in about chapter two or three, I get antsy. Is he (she) still alive in the end? I’m not looking for details such as is he destitute?; did he end up with Trudy?; Did he avenge his enemy? Did he learn anything at all?
It’s no more than this – is he alive? I just scan real quick-like. Is his name on the page? There, my eye catches it and I never go there again.
And just seeing it there isn’t even a guarantee that the author has him among the living at the last (I’ve been fooled before by my snooping.) But having acknowledged the protagonist there in the finale I know, we both — the author and I — love that character. We are simpatico.
Harry’s fear is that he won’t finish the book, that’ he’ll die not knowing. He spends hours, days, thinking about death. He doesn’t care about the literature, the form, the character, the story, the theme, the author – he’s just afraid the New York cabbie may take him out first.
My thing is different – not dark – I’m the Sally Albright. I cheerfully know that I’ll finish, by gosh I’ll stay up all night if I want to drink in the plot with its greater meanings, but succumbing to the temptation of unraveling the ending actually helps me to enjoy the book. Rather than racing to the end and thereby hastening the delicious details of the author has in store, I can savor it all — page by ambrosial page.