• Great Beginnings: A Canticle for Leibowitz

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 1 comment

    Canticle for LeibowitzBy the time this post publishes I will have finished* Walter M. Miller’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi classic A Canticle for Leibowitz, which I’ve been enjoying, but which has not set my world on fire. This is part of an ongoing effort to expand my horizons, stuck as I’ve been, for many years, in a sort of snobbery with regards to so-called genre fiction.

    But that’s a very long post for a very different time.

    It’s been a few months since we trotted out a Great Beginnings discussion, last exploring Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, about which a few of you had some interesting things to say.

    Today I want to look at the first few lines of A Canticle for Leibowitz, while I still have the book handy and while the sometimes-confusing plot is still fresh-ish in my mind.

    You regulars know the drill and can skip ahead. For you visitors: Hi! Thanks for stopping by! Please become a regular! And what happens here is, I type out the first few lines of a great book, ask a couple of questions about those lines, and then we discuss in the comments section below. Tick “Notify” for email alerts on new comments.

    OK, presenting the first three lines of Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz:

    Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim with girded loins who appeared during that young novice’s Lenten fast in the desert.

    Never before had Brother Francis actually seen a pilgrim with girded loins, but that this one was the bona fide article he was convinced as soon as he had recovered from the spine-chilling effect of the pilgrim’s advent on the far horizon, as a wiggling iota of black caught in a shimmering haze of heat. Legless, but wearing a tiny head, the iota materialized out of the mirror glaze on the broken roadway and seemed more to writhe than to walk into view, causing Brother Francis to clutch the crucifix of his rosary and mutter an Ave or two.



    Pretty cool, I think. But what do you think? Do these lines grab you and make you want to read more? Why or why not? What do we learn about Brother Francis? Do we learn anything about Brother Francis’ world? Is there any indication here that we’re in for a sci-fi adventure?

    * barring my sudden, unexpected death


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    Linked2WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and contributes regularly to the Dallas Morning News, Publishing Perspectives, the Observer and other publications.

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    They definately grab me. I want to know what’s up with this pilgrim, what this dude is doing the middle of a dessert, why the pilgrim has a tiny head. For sci-fi, I wonder if “broken roadway” tells us anything? Or maybe I’m just thinking that because you said it’s post-apocalpse. But also, “pilgrim” indicates something weird is happening, plus the fact that some monk is in a dessert. Good book.

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