Discover: First Lines #2
Last week I pulled four books off my shelves whose titles began with Z/Y/X/W and shared their first lines. This week I have the first lines from four books whose titles begin with V/U/T.
There were a few surprises this week, one being that I don’t have any books starting with U; and yes, for the V, I did go with an author, but as you can see it is the first word on the book…
Four First Lines
1. Candide by Voltaire; translated by John Butt:
“There lived in Westphalia, at the county seat of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, a young lad blessed by nature with the most agreeable manners.”
I recently found this at a thrift store and had to get it simply because it’s a classic Penguin Book. Haven’t yet read Voltaire; and though that Baron’s last name is pretty great (Thunder-ten-tronckh!), the first line doesn’t entice me to bump this book up my to-read list. Love that green cover, though. (If anyone has any thoughts on this book, feel free to comment!)
2. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien:
“Aragorn sped on up the hill.”
I have two sets of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but four different copies of Two Towers. This is my most recent, also found at a thrift store. I just couldn’t pass up the cover, or the beautiful C.S. Lewis comment on the back:
Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron;
here is a book that will break your heart…good beyond hope.
3. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis:
“I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods.”
This is one of my all-time favourite books and I couldn’t believe my luck when I found this lovely copy at an estate sale for fifty cents. CliveJane (my cat) is appreciating one of her namesakes’ works.
4. Telling the Truth by Frederick Buechner:
“On January 31, 1872, Henry Ward Beecher traveled to Yale to deliver the first of the Beecher Lectures on preaching, which had been established in memory of his father.”
This first line was the biggest surprise to me. This book blew me away the first time I read it, more than ten years ago. It’s the first Buechner I read, and I loved the way he paired story with deep concepts, rattling truth out of its traditional stays. But you can’t see that from this first line; it actually reads like a fairly dry essay.
Don’t be fooled. This is definitely worth reading. Multiple times.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy are my favourite books. But though the first line of The Fellowship of the Ring is delightfully winding and compelling, the beginning to Two Towers is surprisingly brief. And yet, its active simplicity is intriguing — Aragorn sped on up the hill…to what? why? from where? As this is the second book in a trilogy, I think this would be adequately compelling to any reader who liked the first book.
But, just looking at these four first lines, I’d have to choose #3 as my favourite. I think it’s the “not much to fear” bit that hooks me.
So, Lewis wins two weeks in a row. CliveJane is well pleased.
“I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods. I have no husband nor child, nor hardly a friend, through whom they can hurt me. My body, this lean carrion that still has to be washed and fed and have clothes hung about it daily with so many changes, they may kill as soon as they please. The succession is provided for. My crown passes to my nephew.
“Being, for all these reasons, free from fear, I will write in this book what no one who has happiness would dare to write.”
Inspired by the Psyche myth, this book has the magnificence of good poetry — it twists you up, spins you around, and spits you out…and somehow leaves you thankful for the ride.