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Monday, March 11, 2013


First sentence posts!

A friend of mine called attention to a very nice review from Tor which made mention of the series of first-sentence analyses I've been doing, and it occurs to me that some people may click over in search of them. My blog in its current form is not brilliantly easy to navigate - I've got someone working on that, actually - but I thought it might be a courtesy to any new viewers to make the first sentence posts a bit easier to find. I'm currently working on the next one, which will be Middlemarch, but till then, consider this an ad-hoc archive page:

So, in order of publication:

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Sourcery and Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

The Collector by John Fowles

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Waiting For the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

Stalky and Co by Rudyard Kipling

Frost in May by Antonia White

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

Middlemarch by George Eliot

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Visit of the Royal Physician by Per Olov Enquist (trs Tiina Nunally)

I take requests, so if anyone has a particular first sentence they'd like to see analysed, mention it in the comment threads. Some requests I do, some I don't; my criteria are twofold.

First, having tried to do it with books I haven't read and found I churned out worse analyses in consequence, I'm less likely to tackle a book that I haven't read already. I have a book to rewrite and a toddler to raise, so reading an entire book just for one of these posts is unlikely to happen unless it's a book I've been meaning to read for my own satisfaction. So if someone requests a book, I haven't read it and I don't feel a burning desire to do so, there won't be much I can say.

Second, I don't analyse first sentences or books that I don't think are good; I'm not interested in scoring cheap points off bad writers when there are so many good writers I could be talking about instead. Sometimes there are things to be said about the implications of poor work, and I've done that now and again here, but when it comes to close analysis I want to talk about the good stuff. At some point in the future I might try analysing what's wrong with some bad prose, but in that case I'll be favouring dead authors as I have no desire to take pot shots at the living either. The upshot is that if you request a book by a living author and it's a book I don't like or admire, chances are I won't do that one either.

So, if you came over from Tor, hello and welcome, and I hope you enjoy this series.

One of Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels? Just read them, and would be interested in your call.
Enjoying these! (Here from tor.com.) Left a lengthy and probably boring comment on 100 Years of Solitude.

Suggestion... hm... how about some Mary Renault? The Persian Boy, perhaps.
I've read and fallen in love with Haruki Murakami.
It has to break through the language, but considering you analized Garcia Marquez, I guess, it shouldn't be a problem.
Excellent work you've been doing.
There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
My personal favorite, from Heinlein's The Cat Who Walks Through Walls:

"'We need you to kill a man.'"
Anna Karenina? Isn't that THE most famous opening line, except maybe dark and stormy might?
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