Saturday, May 12, 2007

Good starts ...

... What's your favourite first line?

One of mine is the opening sentence of Anthing Burgess's Earthly Powers, which is mentioned in one of the comments. I'm very fond of the openings of both A Tale of Two Cities and Moby Dick. Also the opening fo Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn (which I think is much better than Tropic of Cancer): “Once you have given up the ghost, everything else follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”


  1. Anonymous5:38 PM

    “`Take my camel, dear,' said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.” From Rose Macaulay's "The Towers of Trebizond."

  2. Anonymous7:22 PM

    At the striking of noon on a certain fifth of March, there occurred within a causal radius of Brandon railway station and yet beyond the deepest pools of emptiness between the uttermost stellar systems one of those infinitesimal ripples in the creative silence of the First Cause which always occur when an exceptional stir of heightened consciousness agitates any living organism in this astronomical universe. --John Cowper Powys, A Glastonbury Romance

    A book better be pretty good to live up to an opening such as that, and this book is certainly pretty good.

    Also like the opening of the great Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban:
    "n my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs anyhow there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen."

    And a mention to Crystal Wold by Victor Pelevin(do short stories count?):
    "nyone who happened to sniff cocaine on October 24th, 1917, on the deserted and inhuman avenues of St Petersburg, knows for certain that man is not the king of creation."

  3. Yes, Andrew, the opening of A Glastonbury Romance is wonderful - so is the book. And you have reminded me that I should read a Pelevin story tonight.

  4. Anonymous8:19 AM

    "The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new." Beckett

    Just a thought on the Beckett Murphy mention at the link. Kind of sums up Beckett for me. Clever but everything is based on this false experience of reality. There is only ever the present moment which is always "new", but Beckett is forever blocked from the experience of the real by the false filter of his intellect. Plenty people similarly cut off from the real, and are delighted at the solace offered by the likes of Beckett that this self-imposed delusional state is actually reality. And so to be in this inevitably unhappy state is actually laudable because there is supposedly nothing but this dull "nothing new".
    Jesus' line about Truth being concealed from the wise and learned and revealed to babes, is apposite here and contains a bit more bite and almost sarcasm than imagined. The "wise" here being those mired in self-imagined cleverness, while the babes equating with Blake's men whose doors of preceptions are cleansed.

  5. Frank, a toss-up for me .....

    Sabatini, Scaramouche ..... "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad."

    Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities ..... "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."