Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A pair of lists ...

Maxine at Petrona links to American Book Review's 100 Best First Lines from Novels. Some good choices here and some maybe not so good. The most notable absence is the opening line of Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers:
It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.

Maxine also has a post about 10 books to read while at school. She gives her list, which has inspired me to give mine -- just 10 off the top of my head that I remember liking during my own school days (random order):

The Black Arrow, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Le grand Meaulnes, by Alain-Fournier
The Moon and Sixpence, by W. Somerset Maugham
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
The Three Musketeers, by Alenadre Dumas
Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope
The Sketch Book, by Washington Irving
Keats's poems


  1. Curious - did you read an unedited version of Crusoe?

    I read an abridged version in school and my eyes nearly fell out when I read the real thing.

  2. I actually don't recall -- we're reaching back a half-century here. I do remember sensing how old-fashioned the writing was. But what I don't remember is the odd spelling -- a word like "clutter'd" for instance. I noticed that when I read A Journal of the Plague Year a lot later on. So I suspect that what I read had at least been modernized. I had also, by the time I read Crusoe, seen the movie (directed by Bunuel), so I knew the story. And I was a dogged reader even then -- and an odd one for a kid. I can still remember the day -- I was 15 -- when I read Emerson's "Self-Reliance," which turned me into a lifelong Emerson fan. And Waldo's prose, as I'm sure you know, can be rough-going.

  3. Frank, I am mortified that I didn't put The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe on my list! I have similar "memory issues" to you, but I should not have forgotten that. (My 10 year old daughter is currently re-reading it which is what jogged what passes for my brain).
    Thanks for your list, I too read Robinson Crusoe when very young (non-abridged, my parents would have died before giving me an abridged book, that's the kind of parents they were). I don't recall what mapletree7 is alluding to, but I do recall some scenes in Coral Island, which I must have read at the same time, which remain to me to this day, they made such a horrible and searing impression. I obviously have a few active neurons left in my brain, but probably only a very few.
    Thank you for the gracious acknowledgements, by the way. 'm blushing.

  4. As I'm sure you've seen, this story has been picked up and added to everywhere. Now I am mortified again because, on reading today's Times, I realise I omitted Alice in Wonderland from my list. I'll just have to give up this list thing. Trouble is, there is only so much time to devote to writing a "top 10" list: about 2 minutes. So of course, much better options keep on presenting themselves the more you think about it.