Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
from A Tale of Two Cities

I spent this evening over at a friend's house, eating steaming bowls of tortilla soup and then watching The Hours, in preparation for our class lecture on Mrs. Dalloway and its tragic author, Virginia Woolf. I've actually really been enjoying the book, and as I watched the unrecognizable Nicole Kidman-as-Virginia Woolf tell her husband that she had a "first line," I was struck with inspiration for this week's list. The first line of Mrs. Dalloway is distinctive and memorable, in its very ordinary-ness: "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." In fact, that very sentence contains within it a crucial truth to the story, it epitomizes the issue at the heart of the eponymous Mrs. Dalloway.

I thought I might take a quick look through my bookshelf and choose a few first lines that I found to be particularly compelling. Keep in mind, this is no "Best First Lines Ever" list, and it's not really even a true top 5. It's just a little record of what it has been, in some of my favorite books, that made me realize, right off the bat, that these were something to be reckoned with.

5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.
Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York.

4. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

3. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck.
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.

2. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence.
Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.

1. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way-in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Clearly, that last one rather trumps the rest. There's a reason he's my fave.


woody said...

My personal favorite of your "Top Fives"

Katie W said...

Glad you liked it! I know there are lots more that I just didn't remember, but just looking at these made me want to reread some of the books.