The OF Blog: More first paragraphs from books I've recently finished or are (re)reading now

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

More first paragraphs from books I've recently finished or are (re)reading now

Just thought it'd be fun again to fun this.  Curious to see who can guess which is which:

The way led along upon what had once been the embankment of a railroad.  But no train had run upon it for many years.  The forest on either side swelled up the slopes of the embankment and crested across it in a green wave of trees and bushes.  The trail was as narrow as a man's body, and was no more than a wild-animal runway.  Occasionally, a piece of rusty iron, showing through the forest-mould, advertised that the rail and the ties still remained.  In one place, a ten-inch tree, bursting through at a connection, had lifted the end of a rail clearly into view.  The tie had evidently followed the rail, held to it by the spike long enough for its bed to be filled with gravel and rotten leaves, so that now the crumbling, rotten timber thrust itself up at a curious slant.  Old as the road was, it was manifest that it had been of the mono-rail type.

For a long time I used to go to bed early.  Though the art of reading is not widespread in these parts, I confess myself to be a devotee of the practice and, in particular, of reading in bed.  It is peculiarly pleasant, I have found, to lie with the book propped up against the knees and, feeling the lids grow heavy, to drift off to sleep, to drift off in such a way that in the morning it seems unclear where the burden of the book ended and my own dreams began.  A narrative of the manners and customs of some exotic people is particularly suitable for such a purpose.

There is just enough space inside here for one person to live indefinitely, or at least that's what the operation manual says.  User can survive inside the TM-31 Recreational Time Travel Device, in isolation, for an indefinite period of time. 

How strange a fish's life must be!...Glittery, walleyed...I've never been able to understand how such a life is possible.  The aguesistence of life in that form reduces me to tears quicker than anything else in the world.  An aquarium stirs up in me whole potfuls of red-hot pincers.  This afternoon, I went to see the one they're so proud of here in the Foreign Town's Zoological Garden.  I wandered in that upside-down world until officials finally turned me out.

There were angels in the glass, two four six many of them, each one shuffling into his place in line like an alderman at the Lord Mayor's show.  None was dressed in white; some wore fillets or wreaths of flowers and green leaves in their loose hair; all their eyes were strangely gay.  They kept pressing in by one and two, always room for more, they linked arms or clasped their hands behind them, they looked out smiling at the two mortals who looked in at them.  All their names began with A.

"How much longer, Mama, must we tolerate this gross humiliation?"

A warm rain misted down on a small boy standing motionless in the tall, yellow grass.  Although he enjoyed the sensation of rain on his skin, the boy's expression remained solemn - too solemn for a child who had seen only five rains wash through the Tamburure.  His height and breadth would have been envied by a boy of seven rains' passing.

One day the King turned to the women that danced and said to them:  "Dance no more," and those that bore the wine in jewelled cups he sent away.  The palace of King Ebalon was emptied of sound of song and there rose the voices of heralds crying in the streets to find the prophets of the land.

There are men of violence.  There are men who drink.  And then there was Ansige, a man with a vice so pathetic as to be laughable.  He ate; he lived for his belly.  No one would believe that a woman could leave a man for that, but before you scoff, consider this.  With his gluttony, he drew in other sins - arrogance complicated by indolent stupidity, lust for comfort, ire when thwarted, avarice in all his business dealings, and a strange conviction that always, somehow, there was some undeserving person who had more food than he did.

The moonlight is shining on the foot of my bed, lying there like a large, bright, flat stone.



Which books/stories did you recognize by their first paragraphs?  Which quotes interest you the most, making you curious about what sort of story is being told?  Which quotes make you less curious to know from what book they are taken, due to some flaw in the writing?

13 comments:

Aishwarya said...

"For a long time I used to go to bed early" is Swann's Way, isn't it? I'm assuming the one after that is Yu's How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (which I'm definitely looking forward to reading).

I recognise the first line of Gail Carriger's Blameless as well.

I'm particularly intrigued by the last quote. What is it?

Larry said...

Not Proust. It's from Robert Irwin's The Arabian Nightmare, which I began reading tonight. Good so far, although I'm alternating it with another on the list.

The last quote is from Gustav Meyrink's The Golem. Great read; finished it about two weeks ago.

James said...

I don't recognize any of the them, but I was able to find all but three on Google. :P

I am most intrigued by the fourth {[i]How strange a fish's life must be!...[/i]}, fifth {[i]There were angels in the glass, two four six many of them, each one shuffling into his place in line like an alderman at the Lord Mayor's show.[/i]}, and the last {[i]The moonlight is shining on the foot of my bed, lying there like a large, bright, flat stone.[/i]}.

The quote from [i]The Arabian Nightmare[/i] did not intrigue me all that much, which contrasts with my earlier interest in the book after someone, it may have been you, mentioned it. Still a book that I will likely read eventually and, I will admit, the quote is growing on me the more I read it.

James said...

Oh wow... yeah, my headache is getting to me. Used the wrong code entirely.

Larry said...

So I noticed ;) And yeah, I think I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, so that might have been where you encountered it.

I'm currently re-reading the fifth one.

Paul Kincaid said...

"There were angels in the glass..." - The Solitudes by John Crowley. About as near perfection as you can get.

Larry said...

I agree. I'm treating myself to a full read of the revised editions now. So beautiful and reflective.

Joshua said...

I think the last is from Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord, isn't it? I saw the NY Times review that Jeff Vandermeer posted recently.

Joshua said...

Ha! By last, I meant next to last.

Jason said...

"For a long time I used to go to bed early" *is* the very famous first line of Proust, and usually a novel whose first line even mentions going to bed early (like Wolfe's Fifth Head of Cerberus) is definitely referencing Proust.

Just as referential as if a novel started with, say, "Call me Gabriel."

Larry said...

Joshua,

You're correct.

Jason,

I believe so, although I've yet to attempt reading Proust in full. Do have all the volumes, though.

Daniel Ausema said...

"One day the King turned to the women that danced and said to them: 'Dance no more,'..." is Dunsany, right? Sounds like his writing.

Larry said...

It is, from his Over the Hills and Far Away.

 
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