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    Great Beginnings: Mrs Dalloway

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments No comments
    Dec
    18

    Mrs DallowayYou all know the Great Beginnings drill. Today’s is from Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs Dalloway:

    Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.

    Some believe that you can tell a great deal about a book by its opening line. If so, what does this opening tell us about Woolf’s novel? What questions are raised by this first line? What do we learn?

     

    Great Beginnings: The Lover

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 2 comments
    Nov
    11

    The LoverI’ve just started reading Marguerite Duras’ 1984 novel The Lover, and boy, so far, so good. The opening graf is a grabber, and since it’s been nearly two months since we’ve looked at a Great Beginning, let’s kick off the week with a new one. Literature, yo!

    Duras opens the book with:

    One day, I was already old, in the entrance of a public place a man came up to me. He introduced himself and said, “I’ve known you for years. Everyone says you were beautiful when you were young, but I want to tell you I think you’re more beautiful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravaged.”

    So, what do we learn here about the narrator and the narration? What is Duras up to with “One day, I was already old, …”? Does she make you want to continue reading? Why or why not?

    Leave your comments and questions below, and tick the “Notify” box to keep up with the conversation.

    Great Beginnings: Was This Man a Genius?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 5 comments
    Sep
    17

    Was This Man a Genius?It’s been awhile since we last trotted out a Great Beginnings, and it’s been an even longer while since we last trotted out a Great Beginnings that started a great discussion. Perhaps I’m not doing such a bang-up job of choosing interesting book openings? If that’s the case, I will of course take suggestions. If there’s a book whose opening knocks you flat and you think we should discuss how and why, email me.

    This week I’d like to take a peek at the opening graf of Was This Man a Genius? Talks With Andy Kaufman by Julie Hecht, a writer who is steadily climbing my favorites list. Her story collection Happy Trails to You is one of the better books I’ve read this year, and I’ve heard that Do the Windows Open? is even better. Plus, you’ve gotta admire a writer whose book titles close with a question mark 50% of the time. (Her fourth book is a novel, The Unprofessionals.)

    Anywho. Below is the lead paragraph of Was This Man a Genius? What works? What doesn’t? Do you believe, like Hecht did at the time, that short stories are valued by society, or are short story writers regarded with suspicion? Or both? Leave your discussion points and questions below, and tick the “Notify” box to receive a message when new comments come in:

    read more

    Great Beginnings: Maldoror

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 1 comment
    Aug
    8

    MaldororIn our last Great Beginnings we took a peek at Paul Auster’s weird and wild City of Glass. Today we’d like to get even weirder and wilder: like, really weird and really wild.

    Les Chants de Maldoror (The Songs of Maldoror) is a six-canto poetic novel written in 1868 by Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, aka Comte de Lautréamont. It’s a surrealistic, macabre, violent, and quite excellent–especially if you like your narratives to be non-traditional–work.

    It was also written in French, which means we have a few different translations to choose from: read more

    Great Beginnings: City Of Glass

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 8 comments
    Jun
    18

    City of GlassIt’s been a few weeks since we’ve done a Great Beginnings around these here parts, so I figured I ought to make the next one worth your while.

    The opening paragraph of Paul Auster’s City Of Glass (1985) is a real doozy, very busy, very meta, and very apropos of the rest of the novel. Let’s take a read through it, shall we, and then discuss just what the hell is going on: read more

    Great Beginnings: Let the Great World Spin

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 2 comments
    Apr
    24

    Let the Great World SpinIt’s been awhile since we last did a Great Beginnings post, and hundreds of you have bombarded me with furious emails demanding I bring it back.

    The WriteByNight blog is nothing if not a democracy.

    But I’ll entertain your wishes anyway. read more

    Great Beginnings: The Dud Avocado

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 9 comments
    Feb
    21

    The Dud Avocado, Elaine DundyLast week’s Great Beginnings was a treat. We discussed the opening lines of James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime, and the conversation moved from enjoyment of the passage in question to the strictures of MFA writing to our shared love of reading. This week I have a passage that’s startlingly similar to the Salter, from a book I’m just beginning, Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado. (Speaking of “nuggets of gratitude”–thank you, NYRB Classics.)

    And it goes like this: read more

    Great Beginnings: A Sport and A Pastime

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 20 comments
    Feb
    12

    A Sport and a PastimeIt’s been awhile since we’ve done a Great Beginnings, but James Salter recently kicked my ass with his exquisite novel A Sport and a Pastime, the opening of which is perfect for a discussion. Or maybe just an appreciation.

    It goes a little something like this: read more

    Great Beginnings: How to Get Into the Twin Palms

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 8 comments
    Jan
    3

    How to Get Into the Twin PalmsIn this week’s Great Beginnings, let’s take a peek at the opening of Karolina Waclawiak’s How to Get Into the Twin Palms, from the good people at Two Dollar RadioTwin Palms is “the story of Anya, a young woman living alone in a Russian neighborhood in Los Angeles, who struggles to retain her parents’ Polish culture while trying to assimilate into her newly adopted community.” It’s also the book I’m presently reading.

    It opens with the following thought from our first-person narrator: read more

    Great Beginnings: The Scarlet Letter

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 10 comments
    Dec
    19

    In advance of January’s awesome new workshop “Great Beginnings,” we’re going to take a weekly look at some of literature’s finest opening lines and chat about what makes them each so special.

    Lately I’ve been revisiting some Nathaniel Hawthorne, and next on the list is The Scarlet Letter: the bane of many a 10th grader’s existence, but an eye-opener for others. Hawthorne writes a fairly lengthy quasi-introduction to the book, and then opens Chapter 1 with the following: read more

    Great Beginnings: The Marquise of O-

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments No comments
    Dec
    12

    In advance of January’s awesome new workshop “Great Beginnings,” we’re going to take a weekly look at some of literature’s finest opening lines and chat about what makes them each so special.

    This first one comes from a novella I’ve never read–The Marquise of O–from an author I’ve never read–Heinrich Von Kleist–and I like it so much that the book is already en route to me. Take a few minutes to soak this one up: read more

    Great Beginnings: The Old Man and the Sea

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 5 comments
    Aug
    7

    Yesterday we linked to a stop-motion video of an artist illustrating The Old Man and the Sea. For this week’s book club quickie, let’s take a peek at and discuss the opening paragraph of Hemingway’s love-it-or-hate-it novella: read more




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