re: The RIGHT Way to Read a Novel

in General fiction by

Dear Editor…

I can’t be in the room with my husband when he starts a new book. He reads the last chapter first. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me. It’s wrong! I’m a writer, so I know the author worked hard to lay out the story as she or he did. You should start the story where the author started it, right? Right!?

Slowly Going Crazy in Carlsbad

Dear Slowly Going Crazy in Carlsbad…

Arguments over the correct way to squeeze the toothpaste are the cliché reason for divorce. You may have hit on the real reason. My husband reads the last page first, and, yeah, it’s hard to watch. He says: 1) he wants to know where the story’s going, 2) he wants to know what happens in case he dies, and 3) gosh, what’s the big deal?, it’s not the climax of the book. I’ll let When Harry Met Sally field #2. But 1 and 3 send me back to something my tenth grade English teacher said: enjoyment of a story is not defined by a surprise ending. There’s still much unknown adventure in store for your husband, and he will savor the language, the relationships, the tension and conflict and emotions that build to the climax. As a storyteller, you can appreciate that. If not, keep looking away. This is just a detail—don’t try to change the love of your life. Just buy your own tube of toothpaste and squeeze it however the hell you want and let the man enjoy his book.

Happy reading!
The Editor

14 Comments

  1. I’m with you. The only time I have ever read the last page before finishing an entire book is if the book is that aweful that I can’t get through it and I read the last page to satisfy my yearning for a happy ending. If the book is great, I linger awaiting the ending, surely don’t want to know before I get there.

    • Excellent point, Natasha. This is the phrase that comes to mind whenever I think of folks who are less than thrilled by their child’s reading of comic books. “At least he’s reading!” In fact, comics often introduce some gnarly big words. Right now, my three boys are reading old issues of Star Trek magazine, struggling determinedly through the captions on the ship schematics pages. “Starboard photonic propulsion generators”… yowza, now that’s vocabulary building.

      • Also, cartoons on TV have the highest level of vocabulary of all kids’ shows, according to a recent teacher course I took. And I think comics are good for kids, but like many educators, I think they can be a bridge to other types of reading. A well-balanced reader reads all types of material (this means introducing the graphic novel to die-hard classic literature-loving folks!)

  2. Oh editor. LOL here. Yes, we writers work (slave, bleed) to get the words right, but then float out and away to a bigger world where readers read as they will. The dude is reading. Rejoice.

    • The second book in the Twilight series. I skipped to the end to see if the depression lifts before it pulled me under as well. *smile*

  3. hahaha!! Your English teacher was a very wise man 🙂 I have to say though, I could never spoil the ending like that. It would ruin it for me. I like the anticipation of an ending. Each to they’re own though.

  4. This isn’t all that different from seeing the movie first in many cases. Most of the time, if I like a movie, I’ll love the book that it was based on. Knowing the ending doesn’t spoil it for me. The journey between beginning and end is the best part of a book.

    That said, I would never read the last chapter or page first!

  5. Wow, Deborah! Marriage therapy and excellent story development advice all in one reply. Thanks for always having a balanced perspective. You consistently impress me!

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