“You read wrong!”
I have a reading habit that – when I dare to mention it – evokes surprisingly intense emotions and has condemned me to gasps of horror throughout my life. How do I manage to ‘read wrong’ you ask? Well… I read the end of a book before I read the book.
“Well that’s just stupid – how impatient can you be?”
Although I admit that patience can be a struggle to sit with, impatience is not what fuels this habit. The purpose is not to unveil the mystery of the plot; it is to reveal the nature of the book. It is an exercise in enticement, not over-eager fulfilment. You probably won’t test this theory, so recall past books you have read – taken out of context, endings are frequently sweeping statements that serve as a final profound knot, rarely divulging something new and shocking.
“But that ruins the story!”
I maintain that until you have engaged with the life contained between the pages, who’s who or what the plot is remains unknown. This does not include the classics, where the basic story is familiar anyway and thus nothing is prematurely exposed. Hence, the ending is only completely relevant and revealing once you are there.
“It defeats the purpose…”
Interpretation and appreciation is enriched by re-examining and re-thinking. A book is a construct – the title, cover, and each word of text work to weave this particular world. Everything tends towards a common goal of meaning, not only the final line. The whole is crafted from (usually) one person’s vision, where many minds (from sources of inspiration, to editors and publishers) have contributed to its creation. Every detail is pondered and then specifically chosen. An essence can be found in the ending, but the answer is only shown through the reading.
“But that’s cheating!”
From childhood onwards, the respectable lesson is emblazoned somewhere on our psyches – “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I took the old adage to heart, knowing how deceptively decorated some of the most inane books are, and how profound the simply clad. Another metaphor is repeatedly employed – “Read between the lines.” So I combined these two sayings – I look beyond a book’s cover and between its lines: – to the opening and closing sentences.
“It’s such a waste!”
The existing plethora of the written word is ever expanding – many lifetimes dedicated solely to reading would be insufficient to touch each word. Books have also become expensive commodities. Second-hand books can hamper a student budget, and new ones almost demolish it. So, when confronted by an entire row of spines – backs turned, faces hidden – it takes more than the cover to convince me to part with my time and money. Would you purchase a jacket from a glance? So I try my books on for size.
Well if you whittle it down, I am seeking a guide as to what I should read next. My university studies have ensured a solid foundation in classic literature, so when searching through a sea of shelves, I am directed by things other than recommendations alone. Wading through books, I feel a craving that I cannot pinpoint, until something lures me to investigate further. For me, this is the fastest and most reliable way to establish the make-or-break factor. What the author named their baby only tells you so much – knowing their first and last words tells you more.
“You just can’t do that!”
This habit seems to break a taboo – linear consumption is the norm. Like the King of Hearts instructs Alice: “Begin at the beginning, go on till you come to the end, then stop.” But like Wonderland, a book is its own world – multi-dimensional not flat. The start gives you insight into what triggered the author’s journey; the end is the thought they choose to leave you with. These are just two points of entry and exit to this universe – it remains there to be explored.