Isn’t it awkward that the first line is usually not the first thing we read? Of course we scrutinize front and back and then, once those exterior beauties have caught our attention, we might open the book at a random page to assess the writer’s style. We believe that this will help us to make up our mind whether we will like the book or not. Well, I want to make a confession. I belong to those who, once they picked up a book and got captivated by it, will just flick to the last page and read the last line. For a book lover it is a sick obsession, an adrenaline rush nourished by the risk that this last line could spoil the entire reading experience (alas, so far it never did!).
I think this post is my miserable attempt to correct my faulty behaviour (which I assumed well before stepping into Armida Publications‘ headquarters). By focusing on the first lines of the world’s most popular novels, I wish to train myself – and everybody else who suffers from a similar syndrome – to become a conventional reader, whose sole oddity consists in smelling the book’s inside pages when contemplating it for the first time. How else could you possibly evaluate your feelings towards it?
If you, too, suffer from this type of reading disorder, please leave a comment. We could cry on each others’ shoulders. If not, just enjoy the wisdom in these lines, a dry shoulder and a carefree reading experience.
Here we go…
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
— Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1878)
You better not never tell nobody but God.
— Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)
Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.
The telegram from the Home says: Your mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Deep sympathy.
Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday.
— Albert Camus, The Stranger, or The Outsider (1942; trans. Stuart Gilbert)
It was the day my grandmother exploded.
— Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)
Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
— Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
There were no women in Metsovo, only men.
— Richard Romanus, Matoula’s Echo (2011)
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.
— Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (1979; trans. William Weaver)
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
— Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle (1948)
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.
— Franz Kafka: Metamorphosis (1915)
To honor the reason for this therapeutic post, my favorite one right at the end:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
— Charles Dickens: A Tale Of Two Cities (1859)