rope. tree. fan. spear. snake. wall.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

found something

Well now. I've had a post in the works for quite some time about the vast amount of so-so bookage out there and the difficulty of finding something that will capture Ignatz's imagination when there is so much out there that is just not. that. good. And occasionally I find a really good author and I go visit her website hoping she will lead me to other really good authors and she's all "I really love the Magic Treehouse books" or whatever. Sigh. No. Because we need and deserve books that are all that, and those books are only half that.

But anyway, this post I've been working and working on still doesn't say what I want it to say in less than a kajillion words and I don't want to make y'all read for hours and hours. Upshot = a good book has style and substance. A good premise is essential, okay, but a writer also needs to love language, needs to dive into it like taking the Nestea Plunge, roll around in it, and cough up words you would otherwise never have learned.

So here, via slacktivist, is Litline's 100 Best First Lines from Novels, and you may not agree with them all (I don't), but if you read through them you can get a sense that sentences have balance, and the right word makes all the difference, and a good idea by itself is not enough to carry a book. The best writers know this. Well, lots of people know this. Very few know how to do it, though, which is too bad.

Incidentally, great writing isn't limited to Great Works of Literature. From my 5 Guilty Pleasures meme awhile ago, some of the authors I mentioned in the bit about genre fiction have that gift. I'll let you know if I find any more.

6 comments:

mabel said...

Amen sister! I LOVE first lines. I love the Writer's Digest first line contest! I always try to think of one but apparently lack the proper gene. Talk about a laugh fest. Oh to be so talented...

Kelly said...

Has he tried the Lemony Snicket ones? They can be repetitive, but the language is great, clever and not condescending at all.

qahrwpcw- Klingon term for "mother-in-law"

vicki said...

Excellent link- thanks. Currently, the weather in Ann Arbor: A 20 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43. South wind between 15 and 18 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. Barometer is 29.64 and steady.(It's weather report day. Thanks for coming by to say Hi to Bill!)

~d (tilde) said...

hello my Superb Owl friend...I am enjoying your intelligence. I feel like if I can get thru one of your blog entries than I have accomplished something!
Forgive, but I forget who ( you want ) the BIG WINNER to be on Sunday at 5:31PM...and remind me-you will be in a pub, where? at 2:00AM Monday?
*in direct reference to this entry, I have a stack of well written books that if they don't capture me my page 20 or so, it gets tossed aside.
as a ( much younger ) youth I struggled through Dostoevsky all the way thru because How cool was I that I read him...Did I understand it? Do I remember it today...Heck no!
Love the link you have!
Go team Go !
I am right outside of New Orleans. 45 minute drive to the Superdome...not that you would necessarily want to go there. CST. I will be around. I enjoy reading you: going to read abt ritalin now. We tried it here and were told it was too weak, that we needed adderall.

alala said...

@mabel: seen the bulwer-lytton contest? This wasn't one of its best years, but still.

@kelly: Lemony Snicket got on my nerves in a big way. I found the author very condescending, and not nearly as funny as he seemed to think he was. It was too much, you know?

Weather. #@$%&/§ing cold out. Grarr.

@~d: 1) Seattle.
2) The Arc, a sports bar in Munich. Kickoff is at 11:30 pm Central Europe Time.
3) Yeah, Dostoyevsky's kind of a drag. Solzhenitsyn (spelling? arg) is good, though. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch sounds like it'll be really depressing, but the language is luminous. And? It's really short. Love that.

bgaffmu: [in my Cliff Claven voice] er, yeah, that's er, Welsh. It's how Welsh cows say 'begorrah'.

~d (tilde) said...

They only authentic european I know is the Hee-Land Koo that eats grass and produce milk in Scotland.
I believe in the USA we refer to them as cows.

Kickoff at 11:30 isnt that bad...(hahahah!)

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, I always wanted to read this. Must look at half.com.

Also want to read: Night of Light; Day of Dreams by: Philip Jose Farmer

*have you read it by any chance?