Is there a name for a disease which causes its victims to stop a few pages before the ending of a book? I’d like to think so, just to have something to blame. I hadn’t noticed the symptom until recently, when two pages away from finishing Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, I finally succumbed to my stomach’s prodding. I left the book, two pages from the end, to eat lunch. (It was the time of lunch, but I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet – being previously occupied by the reading).
I recall the first of many times this happened. Almost a decade ago, I was reading The Work and the Glory series: nine volumes of historical fiction. After 13 months, I was finally to the end… but ten pages before I got there, I had to do the dishes. A simple chore that demanded my attention (actually, my mom demanded I give attention to them), but regardless, the spell was broken and I had created a new boast for myself. I always disbelieved those who said “I couldn’t put the book down.” I now had proof that I could liberate myself from any such captivation. If ever there was a book I couldn’t put down, it would have been that one at that moment… but I did. And it became a sign of victory.
Now, however, it’s become a habit. Nearly every book I’ve read lately, I’ve been distracted in someway or another before finishing. Perhaps it’s because the denouement’s relief seems dull after the intensity of the climax and I lose interest? Perhaps it’s because I’ve enjoyed the story and characters so much, I don’t want their story to stop? Perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading so long, my body’s complaints have grown stronger? Or perhaps it’s because I want to continue proving to myself that I cannot be spellbound by any book?
Whatever the cause, I’m finding pleasure in the little break before the ending. Especially when I have enjoyed the reading, it offers me a moment to reflect on the story, the characters, and the world. I take those ideas and play them with my own imagination, considering where it could go from there. I reflect on the author’s presentation and make mental critiques. When the time finally comes for me to conclude, I’m detached, and it doesn’t matter what cliffhanger they leave: I’m satisfied.
Speaking of “leaving stories open right before the ending,” I still need to watch the last two episodes of White Collar‘s 5th season…. That can wait until after work. 😛