Friday, April 23, 2010

Honey - The Dog's Puking

"Honey, the dog's puking."

Not a line to start out any meal.  But it definitely gets ones attention.  First liners, one liners, great beginnings or bad beginnings what's your take when it comes to the books you read?

When I'm choosing a book on spec only - just a cold call into a bookstore, author unknown to me, the opening of a book has got to get me.  Now it doesn't have to be dramatic or too punchy.  In fact too blunt and punchy can be a bad omen of things to come - a lack of depth.  I'm a great lover of description but I want the story to move too.  Sure there are other factors in picking a book but left wandering aimlessly in a bookstore, the opening rates pretty high.

Here is what the American Review rates as some of the best openers in history.  See if a few of those don't want to make you buy the book.  I'd forgotten that 1984 had such an interesting beginning, "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."- maybe time for the reread.

But my particular favourite:
 "It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not."  City of Glass.   There was something about that relatively mundane line that was rather disturbingly intriguing.  It's simplicity twisted into something deeper in the way the words were played with and gave the whole scene a feel as if the character is not connected with himself and the reader is viewing it all from a distance, a distance that you want to span quickly to find out what's going on.  What a fantastic sense of things to come in just those few words.  Now I just have to read the book!  

First lines are more loved than I thought.  Here might not all be history's best but there's a thousand openings to go through - should you find the time!   

Do you like your openings  with punch and vigor, strangely evocative or a 
slow descriptive ease in of what's to come?

Oh and re the beginning of this post - no, the dog didn't puke.  A few dry heaves, a tummy rub, his not mine, and everything was good.  And thanks to a cast iron stomach I was able to return to dinner and a glass of wine after the ordeal.  The dog - well he napped on the couch.

The books blog at the Guardian had a few thoughts on opening lines and some faves too.

Did you check out some of the best openers in history?
What's your favourite opening line?  

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