Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mental Masturbation

Earlier this year I was obsessed with opening lines of a novel. And since obsession, like misery, loves company, I dragged others into the abyss with the following email chain:


From: C-Belle
Subject: Favorite Opening Lines Of A Novel

Because this topic has been on my mind lately, I brought up the
subject at every meeting I had today. Who knew that salon owners were
so well-read?

This is what I got:

"Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by
literature." (Anita Brookner)

"All children, except one, grow up." (Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie)

"All this happened, more or less." (The salon owner couldn't remember
the book, but I googled it right then and there - LOVE my new
blackberry: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut)

My personal favorite:

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-
ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate
to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." (Lolita, Nabokov)



From: SK
Subject: Favorite Opening Lines Of A Novel

"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were." (Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell)

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables." (Jitterbug Perfume - Tom Robbins)

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." (Neuromancer - William Gibson)


From: MM
Subject: Favorite Opening Lines Of A Novel

"I had a farm in Africa." (Out of Africa, Karen Blixen, aka Isaac Dinesen)

But I liked Lolita a lot, too.

Also "When you wet the bed, first it is warm, then it cold..." (Ulysses, James Joyce)

"I married for the first time at 37." (Sex and the Single Girl, Helen Gurley Brown)

It's a pain in the ass waiting around for someone to kill you." (Roger Zelazny, Sign of the Unicorn)

Not the most brilliant or literary sci-fi fantasy ever, but a great opening line.
Anyone for "Arma virumque cano...." ??????


From: Gorgeous Hunk O'Man (JF)
Subject: RE: Favorite Opening Lines Of A Novel

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." (Stephen King, The Gunslinger).

Though typically not a fan of the writer of our nation's fast food version of horror, I find this book spare, compelling, and rather disturbing. Interestingly enough, he wrote it in his early days at the peak of his alcohol abuse, which may be another reason I like it so.


From: JR
Subject: RE: Favorite Opening Lines Of A Novel

"Call me Ishmael."

Given my company .... could it be another?


The email exchange then drifted to favorite closing lines, and novels with a "novel within a novel structure," etc. And since my every contribution involved Nabokov's Lolita in some way, MM finally asked me what my obsession with that book was.

I blame The Police and Mr. M, my 6th grade English teacher.

After crushing on Sting, and listening obsessively to "Don't Stand So Close To Me", I went up to Mr. M after class one day and asked him:

"that Police song has the lyric: 'just like that, old man in, that book by Nabokov.' What book?"

And Mr. M whipped out a copy of Lolita (he just happened to have one handy) and pressed it into my hands in a way that would have made me intensely uncomfortable had I already read it.

But it all makes sense now. No wonder I believe love affairs should be difficult, socially unacceptable, and result in someone dying.


MomVee said...

"There was such a long pause that I wondered whether my Mamma and my Papa were ever going to speak to each other again." Rebecca West, The Fountain Overflows

"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." Dodie Smith, I Capture The Castle

And I'm laughing so hard at poor Mr. M. So hard.

C-Belle said...


LOVE those opening lines, BTW. Will hunt down those books ASAP.