Ethan Canin on Story Endings

At the end of a story or novel, you do not want the reader thinking. Endings are about emotion, and logic is emotion’s enemy. It’s the writer’s job to disarm the reader of his logic, to just make the reader feel. You’ll often see this in the final moments of a film: The camera tilts up, and the movie ends with a non-distinct image of the sky, or the sea, or the coast. Something the eye can’t quite focus on, which allows you to focus on everything that’s come before. That’s how “that was how he was” [“A Silver Dish,” Saul Bellow] works, too. It brings nothing else to mind. This sentence would be a non-sentence if it began the story—but, placed at the end, it’s packed with the charge of everything that precedes it. Each of those non-words is nitroglycerin, and the story that precedes it is the fuse.”

— “Can Writing Be Both True and Beautiful?” by Ethan Canin (The Atlantic, March 1, 2016)

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