Monday, August 30, 2010

First Sentences

Quite recently, I discovered a little piece of paper that had once hung on my wall during the years in which I was writing my endless (but sadly unpublished) novel. It comes from Michael Ondaatje's wonderful novel, In the Skin of a Lion, and it goes like this:

"The first sentence of every novel should be: 'Trust me, this will take time, but there is order here, very faint, very human.'"

In an odd coincidence, just a few days ago, I was Facebook-friended by someone I'd just met (and liked) in real life, and when I went to her page, I found the very same quote. How weird is that?

I was thinking of it today when I received in the mail from the awesome Awesome Books, two British novels, Barbara Trapido's new novel, Sex and Stravinsky, which I talked about wanting to read a few months ago, and Paul Murray's novel Skippy Dies, which I was intrigued by due to many positive reviews, including this one on British writer Clare Dudman's blog, Keeper of the Snails.

I'm looking forward to both of them, and it turns out that they both have good first (or first and second) sentences.

"Josh meets Caroline in a shared student house in London. The time is late 1970s so everyone in the house looks hideous. That's everyone except for Caroline, but she doesn't live there. Not yet."

"Skippy and Ruprecht are having a doughnut-eating race one evening when Skippy turns purple and falls off his chair."

I suspect I'll read the Trapido first, since I've been waiting for her new novel for 7 years, but Skippy Dies is also tempting, even though we already know the ramifications of that first sentence.

p.s. A brief plug--I've ordered from Awesome Books a couple of times before, through Alibris, when I've wanted British books that aren't available in the US. (Skippy Dies, I should note, has an American edition that's just appearing now.) Their shipping costs are reasonable, the books are in good shape, and they've come quickly. I'll definitely use them again.

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