Saturday, June 9, 2012

Does the beginning matter?

This is something that has been on my mind, ever since that Writer's Workshop. We discussed some of the best book beginnings and how important it is to start off the book on the right note. According to me, though, you don't always have to shock or surprise or jolt the reader in the very first paragraph. Sometimes, slow beginnings do work as well. A beginning, for me, is just as important as any other part of the book (the ending may even be slightly more important!) Going through my makeshift bookshelf, I can say with certainty, that the books I really love have both good and bad, not to mention, only okay beginnings.

That being said, I decided to list down some random "good" book beginnings: to make this post longer than one tiny paragraph. (Also, you know how I love making lists.)

1. "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

2. "To the murder of Professor Grimaud, and later the equally incredible crime in Cagliostro Street, many fantastic terms could be applied - with reason. Those of Dr Fell's friends who like impossible situations will not find in his case-book any puzzle more baffling or more terrifying. Thus: two murders were committed, in such fashion that the murderer must have been not only invisible, but lighter than air."
- The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr

3.  "No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

4. "YOU don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth."
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 

5. "Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.
But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. They wonder aloud how the snowplough driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of the words. Yet there is the constant desire to find some point in the twisting, knotting, ravelling nets of space-time on which a metaphorical finger can be put to indicate that here, here, is the point where it all began..."
- Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (Discworld series)

And another beginning I like is that of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (about how the narrator visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books!) I can think of two other authors, who, in their own very different ways, start their books with a bang and they are John Le Carre and well, H. P. Lovecraft. 

What do you think? Does it matter to you how a book kicks off? Do you have any favourite books with slow beginnings? And what are your favourite book beginnings?


8 comments:

Abhinav said...

You're right, a good beginning and a good ending are necessary for great book.
You wrote a good article and the list is also nice. I also enjoy reading very much but I don't know to point out a book like you.. may be because my reading is not so vast.

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

Thanks! There are just some books that came to my mind, I didn't remember the exact beginnings; except for the Tolstoy one :) Thanks for stopping by!

Sarah said...

I really like my books to have a strong beginning - something that immediately kind of hooks my interest. I think slower beginnings are better in classics though - probably one of the best beginnings of all time is the beginning of Pride & Prejudice.

Interesting food for thought!

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

Thanks! I haven't read Pride and Prejudice, but I agree, slow beginnings usually seem okay in classics.

Fairday Morrow said...

The first line of a book doesn't have to grab me- but I like for interest to build in the first page or two. I loved the list and examples that you shared. I often think of Shadow of the Wind and the amazing books! I am going to pay a little more attention to the beginnings now! :)

~Jess

Juli Rahel said...

I love the beginning of 'Anna Karenina'! But my favourite is probably Pride and prejudice as well! It's just so sarcastic!
Juli @ Universe in Words

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

Thanks! I somehow don't think the beginning is that important; but of course, I enjoy a nice beginning too!

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

I haven't read Pride and Prejudice, but I'll look out for the beginning now, when I do! Thanks for stopping by :)

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