As I have done for the past two Thanksgiving weekends, I hereby present the “first lines” challenge, stolen from James over at Following Pulitzer.
The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.
The most important rule of this game is to rely on your own memory and brain and not to cheat by using Google or another resource, print or online. This includes looking up my recent reading at Goodreads.
I’ll say it again, DO NOT use any other resources other than your own brain and/or the brains of those around you.
So, what’s the game, you say?
Below I’ve posted a list of first lines from books I’ve read (or am reading) this year—your job is to guess the author and title of the work I’ve quoted from.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
—The opening of Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen
• Some of these should be quite easy; others are fairly difficult.
• I’ve used discretion as to what counts as the first line.
• The line may be in translation, my own or another’s work.
• The authors or books are generally well known, have won or been nominated for prizes, or have been otherwise much discussed recently.
• The selections can be from any time period or genre, fiction or non-fiction—what ties them together is that I have read (or am reading) them this year.
If you own a copy of the work, it’s fine to check it before you post it as a guess. Any other reference work or tool, print or online, is strictly forbidden. If it’s driving you crazy and you end up googling the answers, that is certainly understandable, but don’t share your findings with the rest of us, that is unforgivable!
Anybody is welcome to comment and guess and I encourage you to do so since even an incorrect guess may trigger something in someone else’s memory. I may also offer hints in my responses so be sure to subscribe to the comments. Whatever is not guessed outright or crowd-sourced through the comments will be posted on December 1st.
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
—The opening of Anna Karenina (1877) by Leo Tolstoy
1. The king stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored. [Hint: The second line of this book is “This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto.”] [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
2. Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
3. For a week Mr. R. Childan had been anxiously watching the mail. But the valuable shipment from the Rocky Mountain States had not arrived. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
4. Manfred, Prince of Otranto, had one son and one daughter: the latter, a most beautiful virgin, aged eighteen, was called Matilda. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
5. When you are alone and too tired even to turn on any of your devices, you let yourself linger in a past stacked among your pillows. [Hint: This contemporary manifesto recently made an appearance in an unusual spot and caused quite a stir.]
6. There is a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks. [Hint: Part of this book’s title also appears in its first line.]
7. The purser took the last landing-card in his hand and watched the passengers cross the wet quay, over a wilderness of rails and points, round the corners of abandoned trucks. [Hint: This book is by one of my favorite authors, but I was mostly interested in it because of its title.]
8. “Tom!” No answer. “Tom!” No answer. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
9. On the pleasant banks of the Garonne, in the province of Gascony, stood, in the year 1584, the chateau of Monsieur St. Aubert. [Hint: You have the best chance of getting this if you have heard of #4.]
10. The eldest six of Francis and Viola Turner’s thirteen children claimed that the big room of the house on Yarrow Street was haunted for at least one night. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
11. After the funeral they came back to the house, now indisputably Mrs. Halloran’s. [Hint: This is one of the most difficult, although it is a New England author many of you have probably read at least once at some point in your life.]
12. One hot spring evening, just as the sun was going down, two men appeared at Patriarch’s Ponds. [Hint: I cannot read this in the original language.]
Baker’s Dozen Bonus: I used to love this season. The wood stacked by the door, the tang of its sap still speaking of forest. The hay made, all golden in the low afternoon light. The rumble of the apples tumbling into the cellar bins. [Hint: Why doesn’t the narrator still love this season? Because rotten apples remind her of death.]
Double-Secret-Probation Bonus Round: My mother selected her wings as early morning light reached through our balcony shutters. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
Please post any guesses below, not on Facebook or Twitter. That way, everyone will be contributing to the challenge in the same place. If you want time to think and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read the comments below and remember to check back on December 1st for a new post with the answers.