Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The finishing line

Do not judge a book by its cover; and true to form, I do not think I ever have. People are made of so many labyrinthine details that I uncovered early on, with the utmost pleasure, that (first) impressions never last. Nonetheless, when I take this most beloved idiom down to its literal sense; when every book is flirting with me while I roam past them in bookstores, each one begging to be the one to be picked out... Rest assured, the saying is not just a metaphor: I never judge a book by its cover either. 

I actually leave it to so-called chance when I am searching for my new read. The genre and author are not necessarily main factors, the recommendations-of-the-week table – though always eye-catching – will not automatically hold the winner of the day; in fact, the title cover and the back page with its inviting summary and rave reviews do not even have to be extraordinary. How, then, do I ultimately make a choice? When I locate a book, I immediately go to the last chapter, the last paragraph, the last sentence –– and it all comes down to those last words. If they are not perfect, they just aren't. 

I am not really sure when or why I picked up this habit. It probably began sometime during University when huge reading lists were simply dictated; often not leaving time nor energy to read anything else in our free time or for our own amusement. Since I could not decide on the read, I could at least see what I was looking forward to. I know what you are thinking. Why on earth would I read the last part of a book? Do I not live in a world where we flee from spoilers as best we can, knowing all too well that a revealing, voracious key element will inevitably wind up on the news feed? Truth is, it is not the ending per se that matters most to me, because since I know neither characters nor plot at that point, reading it beforehand like I do will not make much sense anyway. However, if the words are indeed written beautifully, it will positively push me to unearth how the author gets there. Of course, an amazing (finishing) line does not imply that the book was good on a whole and a masterpiece I will recommend. Still, with certainty, there will be that famous enlightening bulb at the turn of the last pageNow it makes sense.

Oftentimes, I wish I could start life with the last page. I would like to think we already do on some level. We all have endeavors, plans, dreams and goals we work ourselves up to; and from the onset, a tiny peek at those last words is enough to inspire us. We draft an endgame. The ideal weight. Dream holidays. A tailored job. That house we are not able to afford today. The last sentence appears to be the one and only thing that helps us begin in the first place. In a way, we think forwards then live backwards. Reality is, similar to roaming ever so slowly in a bookstore, a lot of decisions, especially quite ambitious ones, rely on the same conditions as my book of choice –– based solely on the outcome. We do not know exactly what we are venturing into, even less how long it will take us; but we know for a fact that the ending is at least written beautifully. 

Naturally, it does not work that way at all. I am well aware that our lives are written as we go along. A stage towards a certain goal, even a small one, can become an epic novel rather than the short story we originally intended it to be. And even when we are willing to take the story in a certain direction; although we might hold the pen, life will always settle on just writing one word after another, and taking it day by day with not a hint of certainty. We may be able to review; unlike in writing though, there is no possibility to erase – or even edit – a past chapter. Not the good parts, especially not the bad parts. Sure, we all understand that life is a journey, not a destination; but I will be damned if I hear someone claim s/he never gets tired of journeying on some occasions. It is given we are proud of how far we come on good days. Nevertheless, when we get writer's block on difficult chapters, it will not be the journey that makes us want to write better, but the fact that we penned the destination already. Now it makes sense.