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review 2018-01-15 04:07
Great Beginnings
Great Beginnings: Opening Lines of Great Novels - Georgianne Ensign

A compendium of opening paragraphs from great literature, I see this as a great reference for future trivia games, and Jeopardy re-runs, but any authors/aspiring writers might view it as an interesting exploration of styles.


Ensign breaks the sections up by categorising the opening paragraphs: "Once Upon a Time" are literary openers that use First Person, or the Witness as a storyteller; "Setting the Setting" includes those opening paragraphs that immediately set the scene, the time, or use the weather to get the reader immediately involved.  My favorite was the chapter called "Brevity Doesn't Count" - listing opening sentences that are 100+ words long and themselves their own paragraphs.    Not because I like long, drawn out sentences that last forever, but because I can't help but laugh - usually about midway through - and think Breathe!.


Each section is very briefly introduced by the author with quick but insightful comments about the effective use of each device.  Moderately interesting in itself, but possibly better thought of as a reference.

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text 2017-12-28 16:03
Reading progress update: I've read 15 out of 228 pages.
The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.


Starting with that amazing opening, and following with great description of eery feelings


A nasty, empty feeling began to crawl up inside me. It was the same sensation I used to have sometimes as a child when I got to fancying that horrors were lurking in the shadowy corners of the bedroom; when I daren’t put a foot out for fear that something should reach from under the bed and grab my ankle; daren’t even reach for the switch lest the movement should cause something to leap at me. I had to fight down the feeling, just as I had had to when I was a kid in the dark. And it was no easier. It’s surprising how much you don’t grow out of when it comes to the test.


And observations foreshadowing socially induced survival failures


Each one of us so steadily did his little part in the right place that it was easy to mistake habit and custom for the natural law—and all the more disturbing, therefore, when the routine was in any way upset.
When almost half a lifetime has been spent in one conception of order, reorientation is no five-minute business. Looking back at the shape of things then, the amount we did not know and did not care to know about our daily lives is not only astonishing but somehow a bit shocking.


I'm a few pages in and I'm so sold on this.


Edit: and right after, the doc asking about the window... I did not expect that

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text 2017-09-11 00:32
Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 304 pages.
The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

Mother of all introductions!


LeGuin talks about what sci-fi is supposed to be (she actually relegates that typical non-readers perception to a sub-field: "strictly extrapolative science fiction"), what a fiction writer is, and an artist, what sci-fi tries to tackle, truth, and words, and wow, lol.


I was about to add some bit of quote or other, and realized I have about ten from the intro alone.


Opening of the book then:


I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.




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text 2015-09-07 23:05
Opening Lines in Literature

What's in a story or poem's opening line? Is the opening line really important, or is judgment of said line petty and/or a waste of time? Is the opening line of a story or poem ever indicative of the quality one can expect from that particular work?


I, personally, feel opening lines are important -- but they aren't end-all-be-all. If a book has a funny or catchy or blunt opening line, I'll make note of it. And yes, it's more likely than not to draw me into the author's creation. However, if an opening line isn't noteworthy (to me), that's okay.


Here to say some things about opening lines in a much more apt and intelligent way than I ever could is my favorite author, Stephen King (quote taken from an answer he gave in an interview a couple of years back which can be found here.):


"There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line. It's tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don't think conceptually while I work on a first draft -- I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar.

But there's one thing I'm sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.

How can a writer extend an appealing invitation -- one that's difficult, even, to refuse?"


I figured since I'll be including several of King's opening lines (as well as a couple by members of his immediate family), it was only fitting to include a quote from the man himself. Like him, I think an author's opening line (or passage) should be inviting. It should make the reader want to go just a bit farther. It doesn't have to be long or methodical or complex -- most of the best opening lines aren't. It simply sets the tone and style for the story to come. It's the first impression, the opening act. It is crucial, to say the least.


Below I'm going to list several of my favorite opening lines or passages from various works that span all sorts of time periods. I wasn't picky when making this list; I just included what truly sticks out in my mind when I think "what are some great opening lines I've read?" These are, essentially, my very faves. My only requirement was it had to be taken from a work I've read in full (with the exception of David Copperfield, which I will read SOON!). And off we go....


"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

- George Orwell, 1984


"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

- JD Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye


"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show."

- Charles Dickens, David Copperfield


"All this happened, more or less."

- Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five


"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York."

- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


"You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter."

- Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


"So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness."

- "Beowulf"


"The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon."

- William Golding, Lord of the Flies


"The baby was crying again."

- Robert McCammon, Mine


'Learning the other ways into Nodd's Ridge, the back roads, takes a lifetime of living there."

- Tabitha King, Pearl


"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."

- JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


"My best friend when I was twelve was inflatable."

- Joe Hill, "Pop Art"


"Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things."

- Joe Hill, Horns


"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie theater, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."

- S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders


"It's so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself."

- Ned Vizzini, It's Kind of a Funny Story


"Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky..."

- T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


"Here I am, an old man in a dry month, / Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain."

- T.S. Eliot, "Gerontion"


"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


"My name is Odd Thomas, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist."

- Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas


"He was just tight enough and just familiar enough with the house to be able to go out into the kitchen alone, apparently to get ice, but actually to sober up a little; he was not quite enough a friend of the family to pass out on the living-room couch."

- Shirley Jackson, "The Intoxicated"


"We were very tired, we were very merry - / We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry."

- Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Recuerdo"


"I am an invisible man."

- Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man


And now I present to you my top ten favorite opening lines from the works of my favorite author, Stephen King! (Because picking only one was impossible.) These are in no real particular order -- they're just my ten favorites. Enjoy...


"Jack Torrance thought: officious little prick."

- The Shining


"This is what happened."

- "The Mist" (from Skeleton Crew)


"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

- The Gunslinger


"The terror that would not end for another 28 years, if it ever did, began so far as I can know or tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain."

- IT


"I've never been what you'd call a crying man."

- 11/22/63


"After the guy was dead and the smell of his burning flesh was off the air, we all went back down to the beach."

- "Night Surf" (from Night Shift)


"This happened in 1932, when the state penitentiary was still at Cold Mountain."

- The Green Mile


"No one -- least of all Dr. Litchfield -- came right out and told Ralph Roberts that his wife was going to die, but there came a time when Ralph understood without needing to be told."

- Insomnia


"She sits in the corner, trying to draw air out of a room which seemed to have plenty just a few minutes ago and now seems to have none."

- Rose Madder


"The one thing nobody asked in casual conversation, Darcy thought in the days after she found what she found in the garage, was this: How's your marriage?"

- "A Good Marriage" (from Full Dark No Stars)


There are many, many, many others from King I would have liked to include in this list, but I guess limiting it to ten is smart.


So, those are some of my very favorite opening lines. It's certainly not all of them, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind whenever I find myself discussing this topic (which isn't often enough, he remarked sadly). Did I leave any out? Do you have any favorite opening lines? Let me know in the comments below!


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quote 2014-09-16 11:36
Louis Creed, who had lost his father at three and who had never known a grandfather, never expected to find a father as he entered his middle age, but that was exactly what happened although he called this man a friend, as a grown man must do when he finds the man who should have been his father relatively late in life.
Pet Sematary - Stephen King

Pet Sematary - Stephen King

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