Sunday, January 21

Aspects of the Novel: Openings Quiz

I've been reading Francine Prose's Reading Like A Writer and have gotten just past the chapter on sentences. I love sentences. This quiz is not about single sentences, but about the effect of the first sentences of a novel, and how they lure the reader in. More later about this. For now, match these openings with their sources.


a) Last week, I read in the Asbury Press a story that has come to sting me like a nettle. In one sense, it was the usual kind of news item we read every a.m., feel a deep, if not a wide, needle of shock, then horror about, stare off to the heavens for a long moment, until the eye shifts back to different matters--celebrity birthdays, sports briefs, obits, new realty offerings--which tug us on to other concerns, and by midmorning we've forgotten.

b) A dog--it was a dog I saw for certain. Or thought I saw. It was snowing pretty hard by then, and you can see things in the snow that aren't there, or aren't exactly there, but you also can't see some of the things that are there, so that by God when you do see something, you react anyhow, erring on the distaff side, if you get my drift.

c) The storm boiled above the Indian ocean, a dark, bristling wall of cloud, blocking our passage west. We were still twenty miles off, but its high winds had been giving us a shake for the past half hour. Through the tall windows of the control car, I watched the horizon slew as the ship struggled to keep steady. The storm was warning us off, but the captain gave no orders to change course.
We were half a day out of Jakarta, and our holds were supposed to be filled with rubber. But there'd been some mix-up, or crooked dealing, and we were flying empty.

d) The morning before Easter Sunday, June Kashpaw was walking down the clogged main street of oil boomtown Williston, North Dakota, killing time before the noon bus arrived that would take her home. She was a long-legged Chippewa woman, aged hard in every way except how she moved. Probably it was the way she moved, easy as a young girl on slim hard legs, that caught the eye of the man who tapped at her from inside the window of the Rigger Bar. He looked familiar, like a lot of people looked familiar to her.

e) On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly been the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadn't ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none again. He dint make the ground shake nor nothing like that when he come on to my spear he wernt all that big plus he lookit poorly. He done the reqwyrt he ternt and stood and clattert his teef and made his rush and there we were then. Him on 1 end of the spear kicking his life out and me on the other end watching him dy. I said, "Your tern now my tern later."

f) The tramp was big and squarely built, and he walked with the rolling stride of the long road, his steps too big for the little streets of the little town.

Sources, in alphabetical order by title:

1. The Ambassadors, Henry James
2. The Lay of the Land, Richard Ford
3. Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich
4. The Mouse and His Child, Russell Hoban (***Birthday February 4***)
5. Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban
6. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
7. Sky Breaker, Kenneth Oppel
8. The Sweet Hereafter, Russell Banks

g) Strether's first question, when he reached the hotel, was about his friend; yet on his learning that Waymarsh was apparently not to arrive till evening he was not totally disconcerted.

h) When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before.

Okay, here's the quiz. The text got broken up, but I can't fix it. Too many backtracks. This is how I spend my leisure time. Match the columns. Answers next time.

1 comment:

Bri said...

I took this quiz with Weird Al Yankovic singing "I love my pancreas" in the background; it was hard.

The only one I know is e, Riddley Walker. Is d Love Medicine? I thought b was maybe The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but no. I see it isn't one of the choices.

I love sentences, too. I have a favorite quote about sentences. I can't remember what it is, or who said it now though. Something about dedicating his whole life to the sentence because what else is there?

Here is a sentence - the first sentence from Chapter 1 of Neurosis and Human Growth by Karen Horney:

Whatever the conditions under which a child grows up, he will, if not mentally defective, learn to cope with others in one way or another and he will probably acquire some skills.

It's snowing here!