‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.
You may not remember, but that is the very last line of the third and final part of The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. And, ever since I first read it, I have always considered that line unsatisfactory.
The problem is not that the words don’t form a satisfactory ending – they do. The problem is that the order is wrong; at least to my ear.
As soon as I first read the line I said to myself, No, no, that really won’t do. In my opinion the order of the words quite spoilt the effect which the last line of a novel or story is supposed to have.
That word ‘said’ is really so feeble, and anticlimactic. ‘He said,’ indeed. Doesn’t work. Ought to be entirely the other way round. The sentence ought to read: ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’m back.’ Or possibly even with a full stop in there: ‘Well,’ he said. ‘I’m back.’ That’s better, I think.
In any event, the important part is to get that final staccato sound of the K at the very end of the sentence; the point being that we need to have a real sense of the fact that this truly is the end – at least of that particular book. Of course it would have been far better to end the book on a letter T, if the author could have managed it. ‘Well,’ he said. ‘That’s the end of that.’ Or something similar. Needs work, but you get the point, I hope.
All of which, of course, is a roundabout way of saying that the Grumpy Old Bookman is hereby revived. Rip Van GOB is roused from his twenty-year slumber. Or whatever it was. I can’t promise to be as prolific as I once was. But occasionally, from time to time, there will appear here some comment or other on the current book world. Or perhaps even the world in general. And it’s all getting terribly interesting, isn’t it? Such times we live in!
Actually, I tell a lie. I suspect that, in practice, the very occasional posts here will be shameless plugs for my newly published books in digital form. I am writing some brand-new stuff, it’s true; but more often I’m reviving some of my previously published books in digital forms. Because they're really rather good and I'm quite proud of them. Worth reviving, imho.