Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Beginnings

After my recent post concerning memorable opening lines to novels, I spent additional time glancing through some of the books in our home, books that I have read and enjoyed but have not picked up in years. I was pleasantly surprised to see many of these books contained openers as memorable as those I previously quoted. F. Scott Fitzgerald, for example, sets the tone for The Great Gatsby, with the following opening:

In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.”

Virtually any work by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose opening to One Hundred Years of Solitude I quoted in my earlier post, contains a memorable introduction. Love in the Time of Cholera begins with the following line (translated from the original Spanish):

"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds reminded him of the fate of unrequited love."

I have therefore prepared a second list of memorable opening lines. None of the authors referenced below were included in my initial list. Again, the list is far from exhaustive, is presented in no particular order, and includes works translated from other languages:

“Harry locked his mother in the closet.” Hubert Selby, Jr., Requiem for a Dream.

“Brenda was six when she fell out of the apple tree.” Norman Mailer, The Executioner’s Song.

“Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there’s a peephole in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.” Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum.

“I sent one boy to the gaschamber at Huntsville.” Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men.

“When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake – not a very big one.” Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove.

“After his wife stole the gangster’s money and split on him, she wanted to rub his nose in her deed, so she sent him a note.” Daniel Woodrell, The Ones You Do.

“When I was five years old, and still in quarantine for the case of tuberculosis I’d picked up in Guatemala the year before, Abuelita, that is my mother’s mother, sent us an orphan girl to be our maid, and this was Flor de Mayo Puac.” Francisco Goldman, The Long Night of White Chickens.

“Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice; vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her.” Mario Puzo, The Godfather.

“In early June Chief William O’Connell of the St. Louis Police Department announced his retirement, and the Board of Police Commissioners, passing over the favorite candidates of the city political establishment, the black community, the press, the Officers Association and the Missouri Governor, selected a woman, formerly with the police in Bombay, India, to begin a five-year term as chief.” Jonathan Franzen, The Twenty-Seventh City.

“I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper I throw away at Washington Square Station, vault a turnstile and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an uptown A train…” William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite openers: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov.