A year in first lines | 2018

Hi, folks,

This is an idea that started with The Indextrious Reader, and I first saw it on Beyond Eden Rock“Take the first line of each month’s post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year.”

Here is what my year looked like in first lines:


The sky was red and all my life was in it


“In your novel Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), you seem to be holding up a distorting mirror to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847): if we look at this mirror for too long, illusion and reality will gradually lose their once sharp outlines; madness will be less a departure than a never-ending journey back home, like a failed attempt at moving within entrapment.”


My spirit rose to meet this challenge


“The Autobiography of My Mother (1996) is an exploration of the self as other – and back.”


A small tear in the fabric of reality


“Most of the time, we tend to think of fiction as a mirror held up, facing reality. Never mind if this is a clear mirror, a cloudy or an openly distorted one – our gaze rarely changes direction. Some books, however, attempt to cross through the looking-glass: they direct our gaze away from what is reflected in the surface and towards the very act of holding up a mirror. Some books take a step back, they peel off the glass surface, carving out the awareness of an opening, a small tear in the fabric of reality. They seem to suggest that our very attempt at seeing is a mirror held up to a mirror held up to a mirror – fictions embedded in fictions, stories within histories within stories. I think your novel Forest Dark (2017) is an attempt at doing just that: Lech-Lecha.”


Here is continuity spinning a web from room to room,


Invitation to the Waltz (1932) makes use of the stream of consciousness technique and takes place, mostly, during the preparation for a party. However, our protagonist Olivia is no Mrs. Dalloway, and the small town where she lives is definitely no London.”


Flesh is a function of enchantment


“While reading your novel The Passion of New Eve (1977), I could not stop thinking to myself: this must be how it feels to go through a reverse out-of-body experience. My mind is there with you, catching the references, the twisted sense of humour, the symbolic spins, the sharp satire, and all that; but my body is forever gone elsewhere. I do not engage, I am numb, and I cannot care less.”


There was always a wind blowing


“Do you know this feeling of slowly being enveloped by coldness? Like at the end of a sunny day: with the faint memory of the sun on our skin, we are caught unawares by the first wind. That’s more or less how your novel The Winds of Heaven (1955) feels like: as an accumulation of something muted and invisible (the cold, the wind, or a series of tiny defeats and humiliations), which, slowly but surely, becomes frightening and intolerable.”


The various crimes of sadness


“Most of the twenty-one stories in your collection I Am the Brother of XX, tr. Gini Alhadeff (2017. Original: Sono il fratello di XX, 2014) have a claustrophobic feel to them: like when we are aware that we are dreaming, but we cannot wake up, no matter how much we try.”


Beautiful flying things


“In Ava (1993), you throw us inside the mind of a dying woman. We are there, minute by minute, while it all happens. However, we cannot see anything very clearly – we can only follow its rhythm. Rather than a linear collection of images flashing before our eyes, the novel reads more like a song. Ava’s swansong: “I feel my light dying”.


Ringing out in a very open space


“Doña Quixote and Other Citizens: A Portrait (‘Doña Quixote’, 1983) reads like a string of impressions of place and feeling, made by a character that comes to us only as a vague impression himself: like a reflection of a reflection of a reflection, we are lost in a maze of mirrors where reality and consciousness crash.”


Panic calls out cowardice, and cowardice cruelty


“The novella Lois the Witch (1859) is a fictionalised account of the Salem witch hunt, as well as a sharp meditation on the thin line between virtue and sin.”



I preferred us when my father was away


The Mussel Feast, tr. Jamie Bulloch (2013. Original: Das Muschelessen, 1990) is a novella about the collapse of a man’s rule over his family during the course of an evening. It feels very much like you were weaving words around a blank space: as the story progresses, we get as much entangled in it as your characters are; like them, we cannot see the web around us, but we know it is there.”


Perhaps freedom has no meaning


The Unicorn (1963) is a tale of imprisonment in a shared fantasy, where the cages, rotating on a blank axle, are full of longing.”


And that’s all. How about you? I would love to read the first lines that have made your year.

Yours truly,


Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues

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