Oh, the sadness at the end of a good book! I’ve just finished a 917 page doorstop of a novel, and I am fidgeting with loss.
Reading a good book is tinged with tragedy. Its fantastic, but you know it must end. It is a terminal condition. The melancholy sets in when you pass the halfway point, and the weight of the paper in your right hand becomes lighter than the paper in your left. The book withers away in your palms, and the last chapters are to be savoured. You are torn between the need to know what happens, and the desire to prolong the moment.
Part of you misses the characters, who you have grown to care for over many weeks, as you chaperone them through their adventure. But mainly you miss the fact, the act, of reading. It was a solipstic pleasure, now lost. You close the book, and you’re sitting, empty handed, back in the mundane.
I shall never forgive a drunk lady with a Newcastle accent, who sat opposite me one time on a train to Kings Cross. I was nearing the end of The Great Gatsby, where Fitzgerald’s prose crescendos to its melancholic conclusion, and her round face poked through the gap between the seats like a Cheshire Cat, or maybe a baby’s face at the moment of birth.
“That’s a shite book,” she said, killing my concentration. “I read it at school. Its shite.” She then proceeded to scold me for crossing my legs, in case I gave myself deep-vein thrombosis. By the time I was allowed to read the final paragraph, I had forgotten what the preceding lines had said, and the whole thing seemed meaningless.