Thursday, June 30, 2005


OriginalFiction_256 I recently lost a couple days of my life to The Guardian's Original Fiction, but these stories made it worth my while. There's definitely a lot more going on in them than there is in my life.

The only problem was choosing what to read first. So many of my favorite writers had stories there that I had to once again consult first lines. Here's five I started with, partially chosen by who'd written them (more about that later) and partially by the hook. If you haven't seen the Guardian yet, you can make a more unbiased decision. Pretend for a moment that you're an editor and these stories have come in over the transom. Which do you read? Which do you dismiss out of hand?

1. Before I met Tim, who in spite of everything I'm about to tell you woul be my best friend for the next four or five years--my mother warned me on the way over to my grandmother's house that I had to be nice to him.

2. It was a fine summer morning, a day predicted to beat all heat records.

3. He was in the taxi with the French woman he'd met that afternoon.

4. Every morning at 7:30 Edmund Fenton left his apartment in the East 60s and headed for Central Park with his German shepherd, Baldur.

5. Lisa noticed one of the boxes of old records had been moved from one corner of the garage, leaving a square of light colored cement.

Numbers 1 provides the classic draw, the unanswered question. What's wrong with Tim? And why do they become friends anyway? It's even more efficiently accomplished in number 3: Exactly where is the narrator going with this fascinating French woman?

Numbers 4 provides a more subtle and atmospheric mystery. A creature of habit is obviously about to encounter something very much outside his routine. So what the hell is it? And how will the aristocratically named Baldur react?

Number 5 is even more subtle, its question less prepossessing than the others: Who moved the records and why? Am I about to sacrifice an hour or two of my time to find out? But I like the immediate insertion of a character, and the visceral feel of the garage, painted in a few quick strokes--the square of light colored cement, the boxes of outdated items.

As for number 2, it's not much in the way of opening sentences if you ask me. But it's followed by a killer second sentence so if I were an editor, I would definitely stick with it.

This is the order in which I would--and did--read them: 1-4-3-5-2. Though the first lines played their part, my choice was hardly pure. I had read all the authors before--as have most avid readers, and my feelings about their work obviously colored my selection. If you haven't turned to the Guardian yet, your first line choice will be a lot more valid than mine.

Now for Part Two of my little game--to be played only after you've completed Part One. As I've said, all these stories were written by well known authors.

Can you match the following authors to the first lines above?

fordmccabe164 A. Richard Ford
highsmith64 B. Patricia Highsmith
annie1 C. Annie Proulx
tarttap D. Donna Tartt
toibin64 E. Colm Toibin

And finally, Part Three: see if you can match the titles with the first lines.

A. "Hoofboots and Bow Ties"
B. "The Ambush"
C. "Famous Blue Raincoat"
D. "Pretty Boy"
E. "Man's Best Friend"

Now go to The Guardian and see how well you've done. And while you're there--well you're readers. You know what to do.


R. said...

Hey...nice blog. Wasn't too big a surprise that I've gotten everything wrong :)

chance said...

I recognized the one about the dog was Patricia Highsmith since I've read it before (It's from my favorite collection of hers.)

I would probably go with #5 as my first pick to read.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the infomation

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^