Sunday, January 28, 2007

opening lines

This is a blatant writing exercise designed to build up some steam for tonight's writing session, in which I officially return to The Schedule, on Sunday evening as opposed to Monday morning, simply because tonight's task is the more enchanting one.

Ten books from a nearby shelf, all novels. Author/title/opening sentence.

I find these kinds of things fascinating. If you're reading this and not a writer, it might be less so, but I hope it captures your fancy in some unexpected way.

James Salter - A Sport and a Pastime: "September. It seems these luminous days will never end."

Ian McEwan - Atonement - "The play -- for which Briony had designed the posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crepe paper -- was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch."

A.S. Byatt - Possession - "The book was thick and black and covered with dust."

Michael Cunningham - The Hours - "She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather."

Charles Frazier - Thirteen Moons - "There is no scatheless rapture."

Charles Frazier - Cold Mountain - "At the first gesture of morning, flies began stirring."

Michael Ondaatje - The English Patient - "She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance."

Janet Fitch - Paint It Black - "Cold numbed the tip of Josie Tyrrell's nose and her ass, just outside the reach of the studio space heater."

Janet Fitch - White Oleander - "The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw."

Heidi Julavits - The Mineral Palace - "As soon as the Ford Touring Car crossed the St. Paul city limits on April 20, 1934 ("You Are Leaving St. Paul, Minn., Home of the Inlagd Sill Herring Festival, Please Visit Us Again"), and passed into the great, square-upon-square expanse of the surrounding farmland, Bena jotted down the odometer reading with the golf pencil she kept in the ashtray: 5.434."


shara said...

A.S. Byatt - Possession - "The book was thick and black and covered with dust."

That would make me want to read the book. (I haven't. Didn't even know it existed.)

None of the other opening lines caught me immediately, though I've read some of the books. I like a first sentence that suggests, and promises more, doesn't tell too much.

Peter Bryenton said...

Ah, opening sentences: memory testers, aren't they?

billie said...

Shara, you might enjoy Possession. I love A.S. Byatt.

I, too, loved her first line. She manages to make it mysterious and evocative right off the bat.

I confess, though, it is difficult for me to read any of these sentences w/o the bias of already knowing (and in these cases) loving the books.

Peter, welcome. I have made a quick trip to your site and know already I will be back there regularly. Lovely photos! I look forward to exploring them at leisure.

Unlike some readers who skip to the end, I often return to the first page of a novel as I'm reading it, to remind myself how it was framed, hence my little exercise last night.

I found that I had left my little candle burning all night long - so it seems the creative fire went on while I slept!