• Great Beginnings: The Old Man and the Sea

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 5 comments

    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:

    “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled; it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.”

    Any thoughts on the style, mood, or setting? What do you like about this opening, what do you not like about this opening?

    [Also, we’re taking volunteers to moderate future WBN Book Club selections. Since discussing books is proving too time-consuming for most of us, and since we’ve had such fun talking about short stories, we’ll probably stick with shorter works moving forward. Short fiction, flash fiction, personal essays, journalism: if you have any ideas and/or want to lead a discussion (which entails reading the work, writing a discussion post with questions, and moderating the comment area), drop us a line or let us know in the comments below.]



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    Janice Williams

    I like the opening paragraph — it’s been many years since I’ve read it. It makes me want to go back to it. It introduces the characters, the conflict, and the setting succinctly.

    For your short works, consider Dorothy Parker. I am reading a book of her short stories and they are incredible. Written in the ’20s, but they hold up and they are topics written about today (marriage troubles, affairs, abortions, workplace sexual harassment).

    David Duhr

    I like that idea, Janice. I’ve never read any Parker fiction. Is there one from that collection that jumps out as a good candidate for discussion?

    Janice Williams

    It’s on my bedside table … But I’ll let you know.

    Laura Roberts

    I believe “Big Blonde” is her best known, and an O’Henry award-winner, to boot.

    […] Last week we considered the opening of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. This week, let’s discuss the lead paragraph of Dorothy Parker’s short story, “Big Blonde”: […]

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