As I have done for the past six 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 Monday, December 2. [ETA: For the answers, click here.]
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
—The opening of Anna Karenina (1877) by Leo Tolstoy
1. “Once upon a time … a little girl lived in the Big Woods”: the opening of the Little House series has the cadence of a fairy tale.
2. Lieutenant Commander Peter Holmes of the Royal Australian Navy woke soon after dawn. [Hint: The title of this work comes from a poem by T.S. Eliot.]
3. It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. [Hint: I read this for my “summer” book salon.]
4. On Friday, August third, 1923, the morning after President Harding’s death, reporters followed the widow, the Vice President, and Charles Carter, the magician. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
5. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
6. The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
7. The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.” [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
8. Even in Los Angeles, where there is no shortage of remarkable hairdos, Harry Peak attracted attention. [Hint: This is a work of nonfiction.]
9. The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
10. I do not propose to add anything to what has already been written concerning the loss of the Lady Vain. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
Holiday Bonus: The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to note it as the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child. [ETA: This book has been guessed correctly in the comments below.]
Double-Secret-Probation Bonus Round: This is the story of how a middle-aged spinster lost her mind, deserted her domestic gods in the city, took a furnished house for the summer out of town, and found herself involved in one of those mysterious crimes that keep our newspapers and detective agencies happy and prosperous. [Hint: I wanted to read this book because the title inspired that of one of my favorite #Noirvember discoveries, even though the plots have nothing to do with each other.]
Please post any guesses in the comments here, not on 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 and remember to check back on December 2 for a new post with the answers. [ETA: For the answers, click here.]
For the six previous annual challenges, click here.