• Great Beginnings: City Of Glass

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 8 comments

    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:

    It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. Much later, when he was able to think about the things that happened to him, he would conclude that nothing was real except chance. But that was much later. In the beginning, there was simply the event and its consequences. Whether it might have turned out differently, or whether it was all predetermined with the first word that came from the stranger’s mouth, is not the question. The question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something is not for the story to tell.


    Rather than throw out a bunch of leading questions, I’ll just let y’all take it away. What do you think of this opening? What’s going on? Discuss!

    Whether or not we succeed is not for the blog post to tell.


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    J. Sommers

    It’s kind of a “It was a dark and stormy night” opening, but I’m intrigued anyway. Clearly the narrator already knows the end, hear at the beginning. Other books that do this?

    J. Sommers

    *here* at the beginning.

    Justine Tal Goldberg

    First things first: Paul Auster is my favorite author and “City of Glass” is my favorite book, so a.) good choice, David, and b.) like the narrator, I know the end so I’ll avoid spoilers. I love this opening; no surprise there. It piques the reader’s interest immediately by presenting a mystery to be solved. It also sets the book up as a cerebral sort of thing, philosophical in nature (which it is), so the reader knows from the outset exactly what he/she is in for. Finally, this opening passage which twists and turns and loops back on itself mimics… Read more »

    Carrie Winters

    “In the beginning, there was simply the event and its consequences.”

    The first three words sound familiar, don’t they? Is there a biblical aspect to this storyline? (I’ve never read this one.)

    Justine Tal Goldberg

    Funny, I’ve never thought of that. Nothing overtly biblical comes to mind but I wouldn’t be surprised if allusions are present. The narrative is multilayered … there’s just a whole lot going in this book!

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