The best opening lines from novels

1.  You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go. — Dr. Suess, Oh The Places You’ll Go. (1990)       2. Call me Ishmael. — Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851) 3. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813) 4. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) 5. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa) 6. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955) 7. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett) 8. riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus… Continue reading

Remembrance Day

 Today is Remembrance Day,   November 11 . We are to remember all those who died in war, all those injured, all those who survived. Yet sometimes it seems more like a celebration, a parade. Yes, it’s good that it’s over, but was the war really necessary? Where are the regrets for the war? Wouldn’t it be better to try harder to prevent war? Of course that is no easy task. But war  must always be the last choice. “And if I could, I would send you a bone. Not to call you to war, but away from it. Something you cannot avoid seeing, touching. Something to make the blood on our hands visible, unmistakable. A limb, a shoulder, a hunk of flesh dripping real blood, from the rubble beneath the bulldozer, the doorstep, from the child shot dead in the gunfight or buried under the house, from the bomb shelters of Baghdad and from the bloody busses of Tel Aviv. A bone red with blood to say: This is what colonization requires: blood soaked sand, holy earth defiled with death, human sacrifice.” — STARHAWK Below are two poems from Wilfred Owen, an English soldier, sent off to die in… Continue reading

The Eve of Destruction

THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION is a novel about America edging toward nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It would be a war that might kill hundreds of millions of people and poison the atmosphere for fifty years. In October 1962, American spy planes photographed missiles loaded with nuclear warheads in Cuba. The Soviet Union was installing the missiles, and they could reach targets in the USA within minutes. President Kennedy was trying to find a way out of the Cuban Missile Crisis without recourse to war. The US armed forces were confident about attacking the Soviet Union in one all-out nuclear war, certain they would win. President John Kennedy was doubtful about their advice and motives, cautious after they told him similar gung-ho things about the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. The Eve of Destruction is the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  EXTRACT  Luke could hear the roar of the huge printing presses in the background. He was sitting opposite Walt who smiled delightedly, unable to understand what this was about. Luke listened to the sound and smell of the printing, he imagined the newspapers whizzing down to the collection point to be bundled; he could smell the… Continue reading

The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell

book, tipping point

This book is about contagion, how an idea, a product, a book, song, movie, or a phone can suddenly become the item to have. What causes one product to succeed while another fails? The point where an item becomes an overnight success is the “tipping point”. Once you reach the tipping point there is no stopping the flood. It is like the flu virus, up till a certain point, the flu can be contained. Some people are getting over it, as others are coming down with it. That’s the balance point. But if there is a small increase in the number catching the flu, the tipping point is reached, and there is no stopping the contagion until it has burnt itself out. The Tipping Point is a non-fiction book about how that tipping point is achieved. What are the factors that cause one item to reach the tipping point, while a similar item will fail? For something to reach a tipping point it requires some special people: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Connectors are people with a special gift for bringing people together — connecting them. Connectors know lots of people, but it is important that they are not all within… Continue reading