I wrote a little while ago about opening lines from books. I was discussing the opening to my first novel The Great Wide Open and mentioned I might list some of my favourite novel opening lines, well here goes:

(Might do some endings another time)

“Hale knew before he had been in Brighton half an hour, that they meant to kill him.”

Brighton Rock, Graham Greene

“Oh God. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel”.

JPod, Douglas Coupland

“I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.  I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead.”

On The Road, Jack Kerouac

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

“It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

1984, George Orwell

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like… and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it”

The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

“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.”

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“’Abandon hope all ye who enter here’ is scrawled in blood red lettering in the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street.”

American Psycho, Brett Easton-Ellis

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Imperial Bedrooms

October 4, 2011

I was sceptical about a sequel to Less Than Zero, the scorching debut novel by Brett Easton Ellis written in the 80s while he was still at college. (Having written my uni dissertation on American Psycho, his take on the human cost of American capitalism, I have a bit of an interest in the work of Ellis)

If you can forgive the need to make the sequel also take place in a short period over Christmas in LA, when the protagonist has just returned from a period of time on the east coast, it is actually a reasonable read.

We find the characters of the first novel now middle aged and jaded. (This theme has resonance for me as I have recently made the mortifying discovery I am middle aged, and not the person I was at 22) The opening of the book casts Ellis as a friend of the group who wrote down what happened to them in the first novel. This is mentioned to explain how they all ended up at the premiere of the film version of the first novel, watching brat pack era movie stars play them. And unlike in the novel, one of them is killed off. Apparently the ‘real’ character was mortified to discover he was killed off.

The examination of what the Less Than Zero characters became is interesting, particularly for those who have followed the career of Ellis. The novel is really readable (unlike Glamarama, which I have still never finished). At some point (the vanishing point?) I would like to read Less Than Zero again, quickly followed by Imperial Bedrooms, as I think that would show just how good the first novel is and give an exact measurement of whether the sequel stands real comparison to the debut novel, which was one of the best fiction written in the 1980s.

Censorship or protection?

October 14, 2010

I am not good at accepting censorship. I wrote my university dissertation on American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis (researched while studying briefly at an American higher education establishment). The book uses murder and mutilation as a metaphor for the damage unchecked capitalism does to the poor. The main character is a Wall Street banker who by day manipulates money markets to his own advantage and by night stalks the streets of New York on a killing spree.

My book, The Joy of Ex, contains swear words (even the C word), sexual content, adult themes (altho their is an advisory warning printed on the  back cover) – so I am ok with edgie and adult content.

Right now in the USA, where almost 20 years ago, American Psycho caused proper uproar, there is an ongoing debate about children’s access to books.

Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mocking Bird and the Twilight saga are all being battled over at schools in the land of the free.

(This is a serious issue, the other day an episode of Private Practice (spin off from Grey’s Anatomy showing what the character of Addison Montgomery did next) on Living had a storyline about a young girl who got Hep B (or something similar) from a boy who had bitten her neck and had done it to other girls, even though he said he only loved her… or some such – the upshot of which was don’t bite your friends just cos you like Twilight.)

The main message I took from Catcher in the Rye when I read it as a teenager nearly 20 years ago, was don’t be a faker. (definitely not kill a rock star). While from Mockingbird (again, about 20 years since I opened it up), which is about lots of things, I particularly got the message we should not judge people (which always makes me wonder if Harper Lee meant the irony of having a court room drama with that message).

As for Twilight, I am way out of the target demographic and havent read any of it, altho the movie trailers seem to be about love and relationships. Maybe when my son is old enough to read it, I’ll dip in so I can discuss with him, but I think my vampire / human love story of choice is still Buffy / Spike. (apologies to Sookie and Bill and probably Cordy and Angel too)

I am sure the parents who are raising these issues about what books their children have access to in school libraries have genuine concerns, but I am not sure censorship is ever the answer.

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