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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Favorite First Lines

Inspired by a music thread from last week that was posted by our friend, Patriotboy at Jesus’ General, I would like to know what your favorite first lines from literature (poetry, fiction, belle letteres) is. Don’t be shy. “Call me Ishmael”, “Marley was dead”, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen”. Whatever may strike you as good.


Kathleen Taylor said...

I dare any first line to beat:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in posession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Dan and Tammy, should come as no surprise:

STATELY, PLUMP BUCK MULLIGAN CAME FROM THE STAIRHEAD, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.

Not that I’m a Joyce fan, so much …

Anonymous said...

Damn, I thought I closed that tag!

dee said...

If this typewriter can’t do it, then fuck it, it can’t be done

SeattleDan said...

Austen, Joyce and Robbins! A Fine Start, I say. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

From "Billy in the Darbies":
But aren't it all sham?

Hats off to dee. Hers gets my vote thus far.

Anonymous D (or A Nonny D)

Anonymous said...

Oh, shit, it was supposed to be a first line, which is not the same as a last line. I used to know how to read.

Anonymous D

Anonymous said...

Anonymous D … you could always go with any line from Finnegans Wake, since it starts in the middle of a sentence and ends with the beginning of the same sentence …. Supposedly, you can crack it open anywhere and begin … just go full circle till you get to the point where you started.

Then again, it is largely gibberish …

SeattleDan said...

I admit that I've never been through the Wake. But there are moments in it...there a lot of jokes, and I think Joyce meant for it to a comedy. But you'd have to be as encyclopedic as he was to get it all.

Dave is right...the book is a cycle, ending in the word "the" and beginning again "along the riverun, from swerve of shore to bend of bay...".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the observation, Dave. I substituted gibberish for sham, and found that either describes the current state of affairs under the mental midget from Midland. And since there seems to be no end in sight for his military madness, Joyce was perhaps an unwitting kind of a Nostradamus regarding America's entry into the 21st century.

Anonymous David

Anonymous said...

Right on, Anonymous D (saaay, is that a rap name?) …

Today I listened to a little bit of th’ Bushwhacker’s Tin Soldier, Gen. David Petraeus, and I learned two interesting things. First, despite the fact that we nay-sayers keep insisting that Iraq is in the grips of a civil war, in reality the only enemy there is “al Qaeda” and other “extremists with a Taliban-like ideology.” Never mind that Juan Cole, who’s spent his entire professional life studying the region, concludes that there are only about 1,200 al Qaeda-sympathetic foreign fighters in Iraq … Osama bin Laden’s the guy to beat.

In Iraq.


He’s not kidding.

Next, I learned that the lesson of the Sabra and Shatila massacres back in 1982 … you know, the massacres of Palestinians by our good friends in the Lebanese Christian Phalange … is (wait for it) … that we gotta keep fighting Muslims till the last “extremist” is dead. Or something. Now, you might think that the lesson of Sabra and Shatila is something more like, um, let’s not massacre innocent civilians, or we risk years and years of animosity and reprisals ’n stuff … but, no, the lesson is, we should ignore the things that create terrorists, and just keep fightin’ th’ terrorists.

Which makes sense, really, if your objective is, y’ know, eternal war ’n stuff.

Geez, these guys are good.

SeattleDan said...

I've heard that often enough. If they want to be terrorists, they should expect to die.

I think we all have a general idea of what a terrorist is and what terrorism is comprised of. Osama? Sure. I think under any lights Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization.

But as the Late President Reagan once said, One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

And if we talked to the different peoples in the Mid-East, tried to achieve some consensus by diplomacy, marginalize the fanatics in their own communities, well then, clearly, that just won't work. These people are DETERMINED to blow us up and cut our heads off.

Ok, end of snark. It's a good conversation.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think we root causers were put in our place right after 9/11.

I do remember that a psychologist, a woman whose name escapes me, did a study of terrorists back in the 70s, inspired I think by the events at the '72 Olympics. Her conclusion was that the terrorists she studied were not crazy, but rather that they are driven by a sense of having been terribly wronged and that they had no other recourse. The study was not an apology, as I remember, but rather an attempt to understand what we were up against.

Clearly that impulse can be, and is, exploited in heinous ways by opportunists, and now by motherfucking religious fundamentalists.

Of course, state terrorism from the sky is more of the cold-blooded, resource-imperialism sort.

You're right, Dave, these guys are really good - especially at doing things that are really bad for all living things.

Anoymous D, Anonymous David's music-talent challenged rapper self.

SeattleDan said...

Dave, meet Dave. Dave VE. I met through Jesus General. Anonymous D. I met through Adam Felber's website, Fanatical Apathy. Gotta love the internets.

SeattleTammy said...

I'm most struck by the lines from Annie DiFranco (via the General)

on a morning beatific
in its indian summer breeze
on the day that america
fell to its knees
after strutting around for a century
without saying thank you
or please

Linkmeister said...

Back to the original topic:

"I met him in the street called Straight."

Mary Stewart, The Gabriel Hounds

The opening lines idea became a topic at Library Thing; there are (so far) 151 suggestions at this link.

Anonymous said...


Good, really good.

Anonymous David

Yeah, the internet definitely opens up links to whole new worlds of really interesting people.