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twenty pages to go

It's a kind of greed that comes over me, I suppose, when I'm at the very end of a book that I am thoroughly enjoying.  

I begin to manufacture excuses not to read, trying to save the last bit for the right moment, without disturbances, like leaving the best part of the meal for last so as to savor and keep that taste in your mouth.  

When there are twenty pages to go, or so, I start to feel like a furtive little animal looking for a den, on the hunt for some place to hide myself away where I won't be disturbed, where no one will -- horrors! -- talk to me.  

Like a furtive little animal looking for a den...

When I get there, and I always get there, once a week or so depending on the book, to those last 20 pages of the book, if I am not alone in the house, I tend to do a preemptive statement of unavailability, along the lines of, ahem,

I'm reading, so don't talk to me.

Sometimes I say Please.  Most of the time I don't, since it's really a demand not a polite request.  If it happens that I am interrupted, then it's a much shorter, gruffly-ejected, possibly whiney:

I'm READing!

If I'm lucky and it's the weekend, I'm reading inside while Joe is working outside.  That does not preclude interruption, however, as he'll pop up in a window, a newt in his gloved hands or with some random remark about something he observed that he simply must share with me, my human cat bringing me treasures always.  I love that about him, about us, so much, so I try never to respond to it with impatience, even when I'm in the last few pages. 

But I don't always manage that equanimity, why lie?

That last bit of the book always feels like such a delicate moment.  The spell I've been under for hours and days is coming to an end.  I don't want it to end, and yet it will, and so I procrastinate and den and procrastinate until I find just the right spot in time and space to do it already, finish it.  I circle and settle and begin.

As we speak, I'm procrastinating, with only about 15 pages to go until the end of Anna Karenina, in this most beautiful Penguin Classics edition, this most beautiful translation. The novel has been an utter revelation to me.  I have so much to say and write about it, having re-read it for the first time in almost 30 years.  How little I understood of its true masterfulness when I first read it as a pipsqueak in her early 20s.  How little I knew about life! How could I possibly have understood, have appropriately valued all of the nuance!

For now, I'm almost to my den.  It's 5:03 am, everyone's asleep, so I'm assured of about another 40 minutes of quiet & solitude.  As much as I don't want it to end, I'm eager to unwrap the rest of the gift and then go back through, find the parts that most impressed me, really think about what a marvel this book is, so dynamic even now, so insightful.

First, though, those last twenty pages.  Shhhh, don't talk to me: I'm reading.


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