Commentary 26: Across 26 Winters

And we’ve almost come to the end.  Generally speaking, endings are tough.  You need to tie up as many dangling threads as possible, leave the reader satisfied that reading the book was worthwhile, and try to go out on a memorable high note without it feeling abrupt or forced.  Let’s see how I did…

  • So, what happens here?  After the bowling alley meeting in the last chapter, the old man blinked forward to the hospital where the narrator was on the old time machine.  He injected him with the syringe (that he still had in his possession from a version of the experiment in the further future), then grabbed him tightly by the arms to cut off his circulation.  This traps him back in time much like Nelson, but also gives him a little more control over his predicament with the addition of the injection.
  • He wakes up back on his couch with his headphones on, exactly where he was before his second time travel trip back in Chapter 3.  The intent is to tease/suggest that it was all a dream, even though it definitely wasn’t.
  • Being able to switch to the second person after writing everything prior in the first person was very energizing.
  • The original ending used to be very different starting at the point immediately after the narrator hears “Won One” on the radio.
  • Having Nelson on a date with the redheaded girl in a new alternate timeline serves as a reminder that Nelson is still out there, as well as an illustration that the narrator was able to at least partly let go of both of his obsessions.
  • I like the “confident confidant” line, as well as “were my romantic misses actually my missus?”  Ah, wordplay.
  • Couldn’t resist the random “I am somewhere in the city, I am climbing up a fire escape” M. Ward lyric even though it had no bearing on the story.  In an earlier draft I had the entire “I Am” poem here, but realized that was overkill.
  • “Why do I end up in the car so much?” is specifically for Nate Pepper’s benefit.  As I said before, he once pointed out that every story I write has a scene in a car.
  • The “little sister got a boyfriend” line that the narrator remembers is a G. Love lyric from the future relative to when this scene takes place, with the implication being that his future self made him say it previously.
  • I love how the opening lines to the final little section form a neat little triangle/pyramid type shape.
  • The “big reveal” if you want to call it that is the fact that our “narrator” has been secretly writing the entire book to himself from inside his own head and hiding it on a computer.  There are a few hints to this scattered within the text of the earlier chapters.
  • The most interesting place to compare the alternate ending linked above to the actual ending is in the part about the characters not having names.  The first version felt too bitter and vindictive, as if the narrator hadn’t actually learned from his experience.  Here it is a little more subdued.  Yes, he still hates Nelson.  But he realizes that it’s not all that important in the scheme of things, and that it wasn’t all that rational to begin with.  “Maybe it doesn’t really matter in the long run.”  Once he’s learned to let go and not try to have everything both ways, he’s finally free to have a happy ending.
  • “Hate needs a name” is also a possible clue to unlocking the epilogue.
  • I am the walrus.
  • There are 36 known musical references in this chapter.

Read Chapter Twenty-Six Online

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