Sometimes it pays to zoom in. Today, we focus on some opening sentences which reward close attention. Our guest is Jenny Davidson — an English professor who’s also a novelist herself. She shows us how these carefully-crafted opening sentences can orient, intrigue or even mislead us.
Click here to listen to Jenny discuss writing (and rewriting!) the opening sentences of her own novels.
– Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton
– Jane Austen, Emma
– Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
– W. G. Sebald, Rings of Saturn
– Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
– George Eliot, Middlemarch
– Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Jenny Davidson at Aeon – Simplicity or style: what makes a sentence a masterpiece?
Joe Fassler at The Atlantic – ‘This Did Something Powerful to Me’: Authors’ Favorite First Lines of Books
The Bulwer-Lytton contest, “a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels”
Andrew Heisel at Electric Literature – In Search of the Novel’s First Sentence: A Secret History
Elizabeth Stinson at Wired – Beautiful Literary Star Charts Map Famous First Sentences
Geoff Nunberg at NPR – The Enduring Legacy Of Jane Austen’s ‘Truth Universally Acknowledged’