Friday, March 28, 2008

Starts & Stops

And now, for a second straight post in which I solicit opinions:

Norm Geras points us to two posts from the American Book Review: One listing the 100 best opening lines of novels, the other featuring the best closing lines.

As much as I'd love to make a comprehensive collection of favorites from my own library, a) I don't have the time, and b) said library is so scattered and boxed-up that the effort would be Herculean. One day. One day.

For now, a few goodies that were close to hand.

He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful. --Underworld by Don DeLillo

I am a sick man . . . I am a wicked man. --Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky

My father, unlike so many of the men he served with, knew just what he wanted to do when the war was over. --The Risk Pool by Richard Russo
Then there are those openings that are especially notable because they arrive from an unexpected narrative position:
We were fractious and overpaid. --Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. --Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
And a trio of endings I liked:
And when he came back to, he was flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand, and it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out. --Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

But that was just a story, something that people will tell themselves, something to pass the time it takes for the violence inside a man to wear him away, or to be consumed itself, depending on who is the candle and who is the light. --Angels by Denis Johnson

He told me what he was going to do when he won his money then I said it was time to go tracking in the mountains, so off we went, counting our footprints in the snow, him with his bony arse clicking and me with the tears streaming down my face. --The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe
Anyone care to share their favorite beginnings and/or ends?


Anonymous Kevin Longrie said...

Off the top of my head, "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." It's the first line of Ford Maddox Ford's The Good Soldier

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Kevin Longrie said...

Another good first line, from Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red, is "He came after Homer and before Gertrude Stein, a difficult interval for a poet."

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd include the whole last paragraph if I had the interest to write it out (check google books), but here's the last bit of the best ending I've ever read (McCarthy's Blood Meridian):

"His feet are light and nimble. He never sleeps. He says that he will never die. He dances in light and in shadow and he is a great favorite. He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die."

You can't get the full, crushing force of the refrain without reading the rest of the novel (of course), but even just the rest of the paragraph would help.

2:22 AM  

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