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Sunday, August 15, 2010

First sentences

I am endeavoring to produce a blockbuster, earthshaking, and potentially an academically career-ending theory for literary criticism:

I read the first sentence and judge accordingly.

Witness the following time saving reviews (totally at random):

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.—But can He follow that up?

On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. Bridge.—Heck of a sentence. I predict great things from this writer, a Mr. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Note to Hollywood: Don't change that name.

For a long time I used to go to bed early. —Ok, maybe this loses in translation. (Swann's Way by a M. Proust.)

Look at a map that shows the north Pacific Ocean. —Obviously written by a Neanderthal. (The complete Idiot's Guide to American History, 2nd Ed.)

On my right hand there were lines of fishing stakes resembling a mysterious system of half-submerged bamboo fences, incomprehensible in its division of the domain of tropical fishes, and crazy of aspect as if abandoned forever by some nomad tribe of fishermen now gone to the other end of the ocean; for there was no sign of human habitation as far as the eye could reach.(Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness") —Well. You know darn tootin' that if this was submitted to a dozen publishers today it would be rejected right here. A red highlighter would be followed with the marginalia "Are you kidding me? I don't have time for this."

A-OK. —How cliche. (The Dictionary of Cliches.)

"The marvelous thing is that it's painless," he said. ("The Snows of Kilimanjaro," by E.Hemingway) —This first sentence proves Ol' Hem is far from painless. Reading Hemingway is like going to the dentist.


Well, I guess you by now have an idea of the time savings proffered by this revolutionary technique. Try it yourself. Your only problem will be in finding enough things to keep yourself busy, what with all the hours and hours of wasteful reading you have by then uncovered.

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