I love this month’s question: What is your favourite opening sentence from a classic novel (and why)?
I could have looked through all my books, but I’m going with my gut:
It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
That’s the book in one line. Love, bitterness, regret, memory, fate; it’s all there. *swoon*
For even more first line fun, try this first lines quiz over at CBC Books. I only got one right, so you can probably do better than me… IF you know your CanLit.
What’s your favourite first line?
Who knew I could do enough book and bloggy things in one month to warrant an update?
September was a challenging month. Henry went through pink eye, thrush, teething, and colds. He still doesn’t sleep at night. Or ever. But, I feel like I’m getting back into a groove. My commitment to read every day helps a lot. There were a few days where it didn’t happen, but usually, if I tell myself “just one sentence,” I’ll end up reading a few pages. I may never be as prolific a reader and blogger as most, but this feels good.
I got books! And things!
- Won: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story by DT Max, a biography of the late David Foster Wallace. The Edmonton Journal’s book columnist Michael Hingston (@mhingston) had an extra copy to give away and I entered on a whim; I’ve never read any of DFW’s work. I was going to jump right in with Infinite Jest, but Michael suggested I start with something a little less ambitious, like Consider the Lobster. “Considering” that Infinite Jest is more than a thousand pages long, I think I’ll take that suggestion. Check out Michael’s blog for lots of local literary goodness.
- Bought: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. This might just be the longest book I’ve ever attempted. Eek.
- Bought: Love in the Time of Cholera. See my rant about the cover here.
- Gifted: A brand new, pink Kobo Glo. It’s great! Mostly. Review to come.
I read books! Yes, plural, BOOKS.
- Vineland by Thomas Pynchon – I wrote up my initial thoughts on this excellent book. Four stars, nearly five.
- From Away by Michelle Ferguson – Review soon. Interesting themes but the characters didn’t come alive for me. Three stars.
I did things on other blogs!
- I guest blogged on Reading in Winter. Check out my post on Paranormal in Classic Literature. What a great experience. Kristilyn even helped me with the final touches as I was in the middle of sleep hell with my seven month old.
- I created my Classics Club list! Now I just have to actually join. I figure it’ll be book snob central – so excited.
- I committed to do a guest post for Angry Vegan in October. It’s not a book blog, so I’ll have to come up with something a little different. Here’s a guest post I did last year about my week-long vegan challenge failure.
Here’s to an even more productive October. And hopefully some sleep.
I was so bothered by not having the exact quote I wanted for this post that I bought a myself a new hardcover copy of Love in the Time of Cholera. I could only find the first sentence of this passage online, and it was driving me nuts. Here it is in its entirety. I just love this!
It was also the time when he happened to find in one of his mother’s trunks a liter of cologne that the sailors from the Hamburg-American Line sold as contraband, and he could not resist the temptation to sample it in order to discover other tastes of his beloved. He continued to drink from the bottle until dawn, and he became drunk on Fermina Daza in abrasive swallows, first in the taverns around the port and then as he stared out to sea from the jetties where lovers without a roof over their heads made consoling love, until at last he succumbed to unconsciousness. Transito Ariza, who had waited for him until six o’clock in the morning with her heart in her mouth, searched for him in the most improbable hiding places, and a short while after noon she found him wallowing in a pool of fragrant vomit in a cove of the bay where drowning victims washed ashore.
I love that I have a brand new copy of this book. Now I’m on a mission to pick up nice hardcover editions of my favourite books. For Love in the Time of Cholera, I chose the first edition cover art. I was so not impressed when it arrived with the Oprah’s Book Club stamped on it. Ugh. Going to watch for that next time.
Do you buy special editions of your favouite books? Are you picky about book club logos? Am I being overly snobby or what?
Occasionally, I am allowed to listen to the radio in the car between renditions of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” (Ben loves the “hum diddle iddle iddle hum diddle ay” part.) It’s important that I don’t play it too loud, or appear to be enjoying myself, lest Ben realize that we’re not listening to his music and demand that I “PUSH THE BUTTON.”
One day, when conditions were good, I was listening to the local modern rock station (Nirvana every hour, on the hour) when I heard the lyric, “She doesn’t know but when she’s gone I sit and drink her perfume.” I cranked the volume just long enough to figure out what we were listening to before switching over to Disney Soundtrack Hell, as it was clearly a reference to Love in the Time of Cholera, one of my all time favourite books.
“Sixteen Saltines” by Jack White is supposedly a big “eff you” to his former partner Meg White, but this lyric makes me think there’s more to it. In the book, unrequited lover Florentino Ariza drinks Fermina Daza’s perfume to literally make himself lovesick. It’s a powerful image, and I don’t think it was used accidentally. I would LOVE to provide a quote from the book, but I can’t find my copy. I’m a bad book owner.
I love literary allusions in music, and I especially love it when I find them myself, because then I get an “aren’t I clever” bonus. What are your favourite musical literary references?
A few asides:
- In other Bad Book Owner news, my mom finally returned my signed copy of From Away. Yes, that is a FOOTPRINT over the author’s note and signature. This is why I can’t have nice things.
- I love that I got to work “Sixteen” into this post, because today is my 16×2 birthday. Sixteen was quite the year for me. First job, first love, first heartbreak, first… well. MANY FIRSTS. I hope that 32 is just as auspicious and a lot less traumatic.
I read Americas right after a three-month slog through The Idiot, and didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was a collection of short stories, with one for each country in North, Central and South America. I didn’t expect to find magical realism. I associate magical realism with South American authors, and with epic novels that follow a family across generations. It was surprising to find it here, though the opening quote from Jorge Luis Borges should have been my first clue.
For those who didn’t study magical realism in school (thanks Mr. Jefferies of Grade 12 IB English), here’s the wikipedia definition:
…an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the “real” and the “fantastic” in the same stream of thought.
Americas starts with Canada and works south. Canada was my favourite, because it was so familiar. Those “A Part of Our Heritage” commercials play a prominent part. I had vivid memories of sitting on my couch at home, watching The Simpsons after school. A nice, safe feeling.
From there, things get weird. Magically weird! By the time I got to Venezuela, I knew something was up. It starts with “In Venezuela, all the children are adopted from South Korea.” In my sleep deprived brain, I actually wondered for a moment if there was some adoption agreement between these countries. Each chapter begins this way; “In [country], [absurd statement].” There’s something really disarming about such a simple structure, and such short stories, taking on the magical realism genre. Chile’s story mixes real life (the Chilean miners who got stuck underground) with the fantastic (window washers stuck in the sky at the same time) and gets it just right.
The stories are really, really short. They’re more like scenes or maybe dream sequences. You will finish this book in one sitting.
Read this if you’re a fan of magical realism. Read this if you want to try magical realism, but are scared of long, translated-from-Spanish family sagas (I don’t blame you.) Four stars!
Further reading: Here are my favorite magical realism books from the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die:
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This is in my top five books EVER. I have read this multiple times, and will read it many more. It’s that good. See my post about it here.
100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I was forced to read this in grade 12. Everyone in this book has the same name, which is a challenge, but it’s worth it.
Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel. I read this last year in my bid to make it to 100 of the 1,001 books read. It was much quicker, easier, and less dense than the Marquez books, but still has that elusive magical quality.
The House if the Spirits, Isabel Allende. I think I read this for high school English. Mr. Jefferies was kind of into South American literature. This was my least favourite of the bunch, but upon reading the plot summary, I think I need to revisit it. Lots of pregnancy and child birth symbolism!