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Famous First Lines?
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Famous First Lines?

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Much like the first impression of a person, the first line of a book can tell you almost everything you need to know about your imminent literary journey. What novels have captivated you with a single sentence? For extra credit, go ahead...

Much like the first impression of a person, the first line of a book can tell you almost everything you need to know about your imminent literary journey. What novels have captivated you with a single sentence?

For extra credit, go ahead and choose a sound or video as the accompanying media that you think conveys the tone of the opening sentence, or how you feel when reading it.
Allyson Gronowitz
Feb 24, 2015
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Instrumental - Let There Be Light
Allyson Gronowitz

"It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times... and the voice at the other end asking for someone he was not."

"City of Glass", the first installation of Paul Auster's New York Trilogy, totally and completely blew my mind. Billed as meta-detective fiction or as the paradigmatic anti-detective novel, this poststructuralist tale tears down the very fabric of language itself.

The first sentence alone is so dense with Derridean symoblism that even the few words I cut out due to lack of space is indicative of one of book's larger themes-- that of, fittingly, the negative space of the "not." Just as negative theology attempts to converse with Divine language by utilizing "not [x]" rather than "[x]" (being more intellectually honest about our human ability to construct/apprehend meaning by deferring to an area outside of centered Meaning, and thus, to the best of our ability, outside language), "City of Glass" works in much the same way, perhaps shattering the linguistic and patriarchal binary completely. As Donald Barthelme once wrote, "Fragments are the only forms I trust."

In the spirit of the novel, I shouldn't tell you what the words I cut out were...but lucky for you, I'm vain enough to want to spin out my thoughts even more, and connect it all back to my choice of audio track. The words hidden by the ellipsis in the first line are: "in the dead of night." "Dead" and "Night" are both words that are also defined by their opposites-- "Alive" and "Day," and both also allude to biblical creation and, in a greater sense, to the concept of a centered idea of Meaning.
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