You’ve slaved over the book (either as the writer or the reader!). There have been bits where you’ve wanted to scream (as either the writer or the reader…), bits where you’ve gotten bored and skimmed over what should have been taken slowly (either as…) or gone slow when you should have gone quick (…). There’s normative bits, there’s bits that are ‘objective’ (cough, cough). And now, the final page.
Especially if it has been a tale of woe, you are hoping to end on a positive note. And there is an unwritten rule that the final paragraph(s) can be a bit more expansive, forward-looking. Go on, you’ve earned it…
Which is all well and good, but sometimes those final paragraphs (and you could really make an entire book of nothing but those final paragraphs. We could read on, readers against the current state of affairs borne back ceaselessly into the past) are unintentionally schadenfreudic (is that even a word? It should be) with the benefit of not-all-that-much hindsight.
Here’s two examples, of books (well, a book and an essay) that are principally about the (end of the) reign of Australian John Howard, who was in office from March 1996 to November 2007, and managed, among other stellar achievements, to delay Australian action on climate change until, well, it was Too Late™. Both authors, Judith Brett and Clive Hamilton want to believe, want the reader to believe, that there is a new dawn, that there might be a new guy, say, from Queensland, who would be here to help. Both books were written in the heady days when it seemed Australia might figure out how to rise to the greatest moral challenge of its generation™.
The challenge for Rudd will be to give us a few years of national consensus to harness our energise and develop some bipartisan solutions to the problems of the new century, before the next partisan cycle inevitably starts up
(Brett, 2007: 89)
A decade has been lost, and we will pay dearly for it: but the next decade will see the beginning of the transformation of the world into one resolved to protect the Earth for future generations.
(Hamilton, 2007: 230)
Brett, J. (2007) Exit Right: The Unravelling of John Howard Quarterly Essay 28
Melbourne: Black Inc.
Hamilton, C. (2007) Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change Melbourne: Black Inc.