Sunday, September 2, 2012

Step Into My Garden . . .

Step into the garden
of the book
and see what lies within . . .

I really love looking at the beginnings of books (and this is not the first time on this blog), fascinated by the variety of styles and tones that greet you there. Some entice, some frighten, some bore, some beckon, some puzzle . . .

Here are a few beginnings pulled from books at hand, chosen randomly:

"I thought I'd been to Africa. Told all my class I had."
     --Small Island, Andrea Levy

"Our house is old, and noisy, and full."
     --Life Among the Savages, Shirley Jackson

"When the MS Irish Oak sailed from Cork in October 1949, we expected to be in New York City in a week."
     --'Tis, Frank McCourt

"On a time there lived a king and a queen in Erin, and they had an only son."
     --Myths and Folk Tales of Ireland, Jeremiah Curtin

"The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door."
    --All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

"The old bus is a city reject. After shaking in it for twelve hours on the potholed highway since early morning, you arrive in this mountain county town in the South."
     --Soul Mountain, Gao Xingjian

Would any of these entice you in? Are you able to choose a favorite and a least-favorite among them?



  1. Of those on your list, I'd choose the Shirley Jackson title. I want to know more about her old, noisy, and full house and why she chose to begin with that line.

    Here's the first line of LAUGH WITH THE MOON by Shana Burg, which I am eager to finish:

    "I press my nose against the airplane window and breathe faster, faster, more, more, more."

  2. Ms. Jackson's opening line intrigues me. But, that is personal, as I love old, full houses.

  3. Love reading Paul Theroux books so Soul Mountain intrigues me. Is it non-fiction? I tell lies all the time so I'd take a chance with Small Island too. I've read 'Tis, and 'lived' Jackson. hahahahaha

  4. Who is this Mark guy?
    I think I know him.
    Reading Destiny of the Republic now. First line Chapter One, "Even severed as it was from the rest of the body, the hand was majestic."
    What is it? I'll give you a minute... time's up. It's the Statue of Liberty, delivered in pieces from France. This gal Millard can write.

    1. I, too, wonder about that Mark guy. . . Great line you chose here. . .

    2. I like Andrea Levy's line best too. It sounds just like a kid. One of my favorite first lines is from Gone With the Wind..."Scarlet O'hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were."

      Margaret Mead had me right there and all the way through!

  5. Very interesting! You must have chosen them for a reason, and I like your selections. The full house is a popular one, eh?

  6. Andrea Levy stole my line. I applied for a grant to go on an African sketching safari once, but didn't get it. I was sooooo psyched to go. And then so disappointed. So, in my mind, I can say today.....I thought I'd been to Africa.
    I just haven't told my class yet.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Ooh, I hope you will go (for real) one day. (My first attempt at reply/comment was garbled.)

  7. Wow! Good read indeed. Glad that I found this blog. It makes me smile. Bookmarked!

  8. i wonder how many writers plan the first line? does it come naturally at the beginning of the writing? or does it creep in once the story is done and the rewriting begins? what is your process?

    1. Often the first line arrives spontaneously and generates the story; sometimes that line has to change, once the full story is told, but sometimes (as in Walk Two Moons, the first line remains intact.)

  9. My favorite is the 3rd one, and after choosing, I realised that I read this book , under an other title in french! :o)

  10. I loved Small Island.

    I am intrigued by the Shirley Jackson -- is this the same Shirley Jackson who wrote The Lottery?

    I want to read The Myths and Folk Tales of Ireland. I been inspired by a certain Finn McCoul...

    1. Me, too, LOVED Small Island. . . and yes, that Shirley J is one and the same. . . and I'm glad Finn still hovers in your air. . . See you soon!

  11. I just started an MFA program with Seattle Pacific University and LOVED All the Pretty Horses. After reading that first sentence for the first time I paused for about five minutes wishing I could draw what I was trying to understand.
    I just loved that book.