Starting a post is, for me, the hardest part of the post. Honestly speaking these things tend to be trains of thought loosely linked together by some half-*ssed narrative or theme. So when I ramble, I tend to just see where the ideas go and then form them into seemingly intentionally paragraphs. This actually got me thinking, how many people actually plan out what they are going to write about before they put pen to paper- or finger to keyboard?
I mean at school and colege it was basically the law to write a detailed plan and then write the essay. Since leaving college I’ve left that system behind, maybe it’s my post-education rebellion. My big, ‘NO’ to the institutions that bore the brunt of my semi-coherent essays. Ultimately, as this blog is supposed to be a free flowing train of thought, I don’t write a plan: the opinions flow out in the natural way they were intended to. Also I’m too lazy to write a plan.
Which got me thinking about the beginnings of some of the great works of literature, and their openings. Let’s take a look shall we:
I’m not going to make an extensive list, mainly because I have to make a graph detailing construction equipment companies in the next hour. So let’s begin with an oldy but a goody.
HG Wells starts off with the powerful ” No one would have believed, in the last days of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched” the sentence actually continues and through the marvel of literary foreshadowing tells you the masterly twist of the tale. I’d like to think ‘ol HG took 6 days in coffeehouse sucking down expensive lattes to come up with that. Sadly I think he had already mastered his craft somewhat and made out with that gold nugget pretty fast. He obviously planned it though, otherwise he just Shyamalan’ed the ending, and I’d like to think he was a better person than that movie-ruining, bug-eyed, creepy-as-ever-holy-f*ck, self-obsessed director.
Let’s move on to someone more quietly assured, and dainty. Jane Austen goes for early laughs in Pride and Prejudice, Austen basically made good chic lit and excellent social critiques with a healthy amount of humour. Sadly today the average reader of Austen is a frumpy middle-aged spinster with far too many cats than is logical. Bear in mind though that the opening line was great, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” How pithy, how true, how much like a commentary on every copy of Cosmo in every 17yr old girls hands. How is it she had her finger on the pulse 200 years ago? Oh, yeah, social observation. She just described every girl who b*tches about being single when a rich, good-looking guy goes past. “He obviously needs a girl, look at him with his fortune, and friends and education, what he needs is a ball and chain!”, say what?
I guess the others that should be up here are ” Call me Ishmael!” simple and concise, but I have to say, not my favourite. Not sure what it is about the whole story really. Somehow I never was thrilled by Melville’s book about obsession revolving around a large sea creature, it just didn’t get me going. I understand that is probably because I shouldn’t have focused on the object of the obsession but more on the act. I guess I’m a little obsessive about taking things literally. The figurative frequently escapes my tenuous grasp. Maybe that’s why I get so frustrated with soap operas, everyone always lies to protect someone from a secret so inane I can’t believe people were paid to come up with it, and when the truth is revealed everyone is hurt due to being lied to, lying to protect someone who doesn’t appreciate it, etc. I mean really, if you are hanging out with someone who can’t take some simple home truths, then maybe you shouldn’t be hanging out at all. Or maybe I just happen to blurt out everything that’s on my mind so I don’t really qualify for this. I digressed, obsession. Anyway my point stays that it’s a book that never really grabbed me. Anyway I think the real ‘dick’ in Moby-Dick was the crazy old guy who gets everyone dead. Eff that guy.
“All this happened, more or less.” Here we go. Vonnegut is endlessly readable, maybe it’s the pastiche of genres, or the non-linear story, there is something about Slaughterhouse Five that pushes you into that world. The same is true of Cat’s Cradle. When I finished these books, I was upset that it was over. I mean actually saddened that I had got to the ending. Not because I wasn’t satisfied with the books, I was. But because I couldn’t go back to the state of discovering them for the first time, the enjoyment I had reading them was all used up. SO now I’m biding my time, waiting to forget Vonnegut’s skill and his stories so that I can rediscover them someday. I think perhaps he appeals to me because each chapter skips around, it means my attention span is kept because everything constantly changes, and in this era of 5 second, 180 word bite size media it’s sorta’ refreshing to see that there is a literary version of that. Also pictures, there are pictures in the book!
If I had to give you a reason or message for this post I suppose it would be, begin as you mean to go on. Computers (especially the backspace button and ctrl+z) make it very easy to unmake a mistake. Despite that, the first line of every post feels like I have committed myself to a post, and no amount of fiddling undoes that harm/good. Is that odd? That once I have written down an opening line I feel committed to the post? Does anyone else get that?