Sep. 28th, 2011

intothewood: (Otto flowers)
[personal profile] intothewood
Since I have nothing of my own I care to share at this time (but I’m writing, woo! I’m writing like crazy and it feels great), I thought I’d share my favorite opening paragraph(s) from two very different books. The first is Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. This is one of my most beloved books, and I’d say these opening paragraphs are my all time high mark on how to open a book. It also very much speaks to my little black heart. You know those rare times when you read something or see something and you think, “Yes Yes Yes!” —? This is a big Yes moment for me. Yes.

"I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.

Last night Boris discovered that he was lousy. I had to shave his armpits and even then the itching did not stop. How can one get lousy in a beautiful place like this? But no matter. We might never have known each other so intimately, Boris and I, had it not been for the lice.

Boris has just given me a summary of his views. He is a weather prophet. The weather will continue bad, he says. There will be more calamities, more death, more despair. Not the slightest indication of a change anywhere. The cancer of time is eating us away. Our heroes have killed themselves, or are killing themselves. The hero, then, is not Time, but Timelessness. We must get in step, a lock step, toward the prison of death. There is no escape. The weather will not change.

It is now the fall of my second year in Paris. I was sent here for a reason I have not yet been able to fathom.

I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God.

This then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty ... what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse...

To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing."

...God. That is a wordgasm, right there. Henry Miller, you are a complete asshole but I worship at your foul feet.

The second is Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. I confess that I’m not a big fan of Dickens, I don’t think there’s one book of his (aside from A Christmas Carol) that I’ve been able to finish because he's just too damn verbose and there are too many characters! (Sort of makes me think of Emperor Joseph II and his criticism of Mozart's use of "too many notes" but this is my assessment and I'm owning it.) I abandoned this one somewhere in the middle, but man, this opening is completely marvelous. He really knows how to set the scene, I will give him that. I can feel this atmosphere.

"London. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest."

And it goes on from there. And on. And on. Thirty paragraphs to tell you "it was foggy" but you bloody well know it to the very bone by the time you've slogged through.

Ahhhh. So now that I’m dank and shivering and chilled to the core, how about warming me up with some of your favorite openings?


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