As I have done for the past three 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, have been adapted for the silver screen, 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 November 30.
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
—The opening of Anna Karenina (1877) by Leo Tolstoy
1. He rode into our valley in the summer of ’89. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
2. Eilis Lacey, sitting at the window of the upstairs living room in the house on Friary Street, noticed her sister walking briskly from work. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
3. When it became common knowledge that the great writer Prétextat Tach would die within two months or so, journalists from around the world requested private interviews with the eighty-year-old gentleman. [Hint: This first line is my own translation.]
4. The city that Sunday morning was quiet. Those millions of New Yorkers who, by need or preference, remain in town over a summer week-end had been crushed spiritless by humidity. Over the island hung a fog that smelled and felt like water in which too many soda-water glasses have been washed. [Hint: I would wager no one has read this, but many probably have seen the movie. If not, you really should, it is the epitome of classic Hollywood.]
5. Floating upward through a confusion of dreams and memory, curving like a trout through the rings of previous risings, I surface. My eyes open. I am awake. [Hint: With an opening like that, it is perhaps no surprise that this author has a Pulitzer Prize to his name.]
6. It was going to be the sale of the century. [Hint: At times, this novel is narrated by the item to be sold at the “sale of the century” of the first sentence.]
7. Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
8. The church is blowing a sad windblown ‘Kathleen’ on the bells in the skid row slums as I wake up all woebegone and goopy, groaning from another drinking bout and groaning most of all because I’d ruined my ‘secret return’ to San Francisco by getting silly drunk while hiding in the alleys with bums and then marching forth into North Beach to see everybody altho Lorenz Monsanto and I’d exchanged huge letters outlining how I would sneak in quietly, call him on the phone using a code name like Adam Yulch or Lalagy Pulvertaft (also writers) and then he would secretly drive me to his cabin in the Big Sur woods where I would be alone and undisturbed for six weeks just chopping wood, drawing water, writing, sleeping, hiking, etc., etc. [Hint: You should at least be able to guess the author on this one. And the title is right there in the first sentence if you can find it.]
9. For a long time, my mother wasn’t dead yet. [Hint: Not the shortest novel I read all year (that would be #10), but pretty darn short.]
10. My dear Brother, I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of profitting by your kind invitation when we last parted, of spending some weeks with you at Churchill, & therefore, if quiet convenient to you & Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few days to be introduced to a Sister whom I have so long desired to be acquainted with. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
11. The stranger came early in February one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. [Hint: I read this because of my classic horror film project.]
12. The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the time as “The Styles Case” has now somewhat subsided. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
Baker’s Dozen Holiday Bonus: My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder. People called me Sue. I know the year I was born in, but for many years I did not know the date, and took my birthday at Christmas. [Hint: As is the case with #10, this book was adapted into one of my favorite films of the year.]
Double-Secret-Probation Bonus Round: Messenger birds launched as one flock from the council platform. Black bodies studded the blue sky in a cloud of purpose. [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 November 30 for a new post with the answers.