• maccandtheart

It is reasonable to suppose that most authors would consider carefully the closing words of their literary efforts. It is also reasonable to suppose the greater the writer, the greater the care. So the plan is to look, on a monthly basis, at the last words of twelve different pieces of literature and, using them as a springboard, to write a short piece on whatever ideas they throw into my mind, No subject will be considered irrelevant and the tone can be as serious or flippant as the mood takes. The exercise is the literary equivalent of walking along a beach, lifting clumps of seaweed to see what has been hidden by the tide, or pocketing pebbles that have caught my eye.

Let, for example, the first pebble be the title of this piece. The ‘Word’, last or otherwise, packs a punch considerably above its monosyllabic weight. If the opening verses of the Old Testament are to be believed, it encompasses all that is to be known about everything. Logos, the Greek equivalent, gives us the suffix ‘logy’ which when added to a stem such as ‘geo’ or ‘bio’ suggests that what is being described is the complete body of knowledge surrounding that particular subject. Even at a more mundane level the ‘word’ appears to have chameleon tendencies. If we take the two phrases, I give you my word and a word in your ear, there seems little connection when it comes to meaning. The first seems to refer to a promise, the second either a piece of advice or even a warning. When it comes to ideas the ‘Word’, it seems, is indeed the last word.

Then, there is the question of form or shape. Unlike verse, prose is rarely constrained by artificial boundaries. The poet when constructing a sonnet, haiku or even humble limerick is bound by a set of structural rules. This apparent restriction has a hidden advantage: it forces the writer to consider both choice of word and word order carefully, to find not only the right word but also the right weight of words. Slapdash simply won’t do. Prose has no such hand on its shoulder. While it is true that prose writing can fall into various categories, novel, essay, manual etc, this does appear to offer much in the way of restraint. It could be argued, that 1984 can be seen from one perspective as a novel, from another as a political essay or even, if you stretch a point, as a handbook for would-be dictators. So I decided that each of my pieces should contain always three paragraphs: an introduction to connect with the quote, an exploration of what has been suggested and, finally, my last word on the subject. Additionally, in an attempt to reflect the rigour imposed on the poet, I decided to limit this and all future pieces (excluding any title and accompanying quotation) to exactly 500 words, and if you won’t take my word for it, count them yourself.

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THE LAST WORD William Shakespeare

The weight of this sad time we must obey; Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most: we that are young Shall never see so much, nor live so long. King Lear With these wo

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