Usually this blog column is used to highlight the first lines of a plethora of new works of fiction. But since I just read and reviewed Ted Heller’s Pocket Kings—a novel about a novelist full of quotes from said novelist's fake novels—I thought I'd just draw from there.
"It is a cold and harrowing morning in the life of a man the day he wakes up, looks at himself in the mirror, and finally realizes that he is not, never has been, nor will ever be George Clooney.”
—Opening line to Ted Heller's Pocket Kings
"In the small village in which my grandmother was born, the giant men flew down from the violet mountain mists after every monsoon season to take our women away."
—Heller's protagonist Frank W. Dixon positing the kind of opening line that usually gratifies NY Times book critics
"Things were very bad then but still we carried on."
—The opening line to one of Dixon's books; an opening line that Dixon is incredibly proud of
“An hour late to work I’m riding the D train to work in a short tight black BCBG mini skirt and not only do I feel Seth the Sommelier dribbling down my right thigh but I also see some of Antonio the Busboy sticking to my left calf.”
—The lead sentence from Saucier: A Bitch in the Kitchen, a novel Dixon reads and criticizes within Pocket Kings
“If you had been across the street, pretending to investigate the local summer roses outside Holliday’s Flower Shop, you could have seen them through the café’s plate glass, the two sitting in the booth by a window, eating lunch.”
-What You See in the Dark, Manuel Muñoz
“The left engine backfired again and began to stumble as Jabe Rainwater rolled the old Beechcraft left and right in an effort to drain the last of the fuel from his nearly bone-dry wing tanks.”
-Bad Medicine, R. Barry King
“Just as the keynote address was winding down, the rain came hissing up the little valley in sheets.”
-West of Here, Jonathan Evison
“‘Read this,’ my father said as he tossed a leather-bound journal at my chest, trying to catch me by surprise.”
“Tribal Police Investigator Ella Clah stood next to her department’s cruiser, a dusty, white SUV that had more miles on it than a Two Grey Hills sheepdog.”
-Black Thunder, Aimée & David Thurlo
“Dr. Alexander Hoffman sat by the fire in his study in Geneva, a half-smoked cigar lying cold in the ashtray beside him, and angle-poise lamp pulled low over his shoulder, turning the pages of a first edition of The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin.”
-The Fear Index, Robert Harris
“Reuben was a tall man, well over six feet, with curly brown hair and deep-set blue eyes.”
-The Wolf Gift, Anne Rice
“In the time when the animals were men, Coyote was living in a certain place.”
-Gods Without Men, Hari Kunzru
“A tree is brought down slowly, unlimbed, unbarked, laid bare but not barren.”
I recently read a book called Ed King, by David Guterson. I enjoyed it at first. When I began it I was having Thanksgiving with my family in Olympia, Wa., which is about an hour south of Seattle. The book is set in Seattle. It also takes the reader on a trip to the Orcas Islands (about and hour and a half north of Seattle). There’s something magical about those little islands off the western seaport of Anacortes. They have this time-lost feeling, kind of like the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway, Ireland. And it’s nice to read about places you’re staying when you’re on vacation. Hell, it’s nice to read about anywhere that has a seaport when you spend 11 months of the year living in the desert.
Anyway, back to Ed King. Started great. Really good job with the scenery. But man, is it one of hell of a headache when it starts getting all lofty with analogies to Greek tragedies. Enough, though. This tangent is just my way of trying to get you to read my review of Ed King.
Imagine all the things that people do on a day-to-day basis that piss you off. Now imagine them being done by a smiley-faced, rainbow-horned unicorn. He pees in public pools, kicks over kids’ sandcastles and parks in handicap spots. This is pretty much the premise of C.W. Moss’ new cartoon collection, Unicorn Being a Jerk—one of the more entertainting books to come across my desk in some time. Moss’ dark humor is reminiscent of the hilarious work of Nicholas Gurewitch, who you can also waste the rest of your afternoon laughing at. Here are some choice uni-toons, accompanied by Moss’ brief descriptions:
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but how far do you really need to delve into a novel to tell if you’ve hit a literary goldmine or simply something that will make nice ornamentation for your toilet tank? With that question in mind, I offer up some first lines from books that have recently landed on my desk:
“Why, thank you. I’m getting in shape to die.”
—The Widower’s Tale, Julia Glass
“All the trouble, of course, began with Velázquez.”
—The Petting Zoo, Jim Carroll
“Abraham’s heels clicked along the marble floor as he moved the length of the room.”
—The Slayer Chronicles: First Kill, Heather Brewer
“Dr. Learmont, newly appointed general practitioner for the districts of West Masedown and New Eliry, rocks and jolts on the front seat of a trap as it descends the lightly sloping path of Versoie House.”
You can go hear author Steven Arntson speak this afternoon. He’ll tell you all about his book The Wikkeling. Learn more about it here. Hopefully he’ll also tell you how to get rid of the creature of the same name, because it’s one scary beast. If not, you’ll just have to read the book, but I’m sure the lecture will be fun regardless.
Arntson is based in Seattle, so he doesn’t get down here much. I’m pretty sure his book is about to get insanely popular too, so go meet him while you have the chance.