Monday, January 30, 2006

A fascinating list of 100 Best First Lines from Novels is up at the American Book Review site (never been there before, but found it through Julie.

First of all, a great big hand of applause for including the first line of Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts as #11. West has an incredibly sardonic sense of humor and deserves more readers than he's got.

Second, pooh pooh to including a first line just because it is a)self-referential, or somehow a commentary on the fact that it's starting a novel; or b)the opening line of a very famous book. For a), see #s 14, 35, 45, 54; for b), #s 66, 100.

Third, I'm surprised at the total unfamiliarity of the first lines of a couple of books I've read somewhat recently (#s 58, 64). I know that my recall of small details is usually pretty weak, but the first line of Gatsby seemed so foreign that I actually had to get out my copy and double-check that they had gotten it right.

4 comments:

luckybuzz said...

I saw that list today too--really cool, but I agree with you about the annoyingly self-referential choices. I also thought it was interesting that I *did* recognize a bunch of them--more than I thought I would. The good ones do stay with you...

Jenny D said...

I SO agree with your second and third points! More to follow shortly over at Light Reading--thanks for giving me that link, it prodded me to take a proper look...

(Postscript: am I the ONLY person who cannot seem to read the right letters in word verification?!? It really makes me feel like the village idiot! Or perhaps just a very inaccurate typist!)

kermitthefrog said...

Jenny -- certainly sometimes I have to peer at the screen - it helps having a desktop. When I was on a laptop it was more of a pain...

Lina said...

Thanks for that! I enjoyed looking at that list (and playng sad little games, trying to remember, or guess, what the book was before it told me!)