Saturday, June 05, 2010

She Sings AND She Reads! Guest Blogger Soprano Karen Urlie weighs in on her favorite first lines

I was kind of excited that Anjie (hope she wasn't joking…) suggested that I guest blog about some of my favorite books' first lines. I'm definitely not a writer, but I've always been an avid reader.

Over the past year, I've been trying to assemble my lifetime reading list, but it's nowhere near comprehensive. I truly wish that I had, like Anj, kept a lifelong list of books I've read. I'll admit that this is most likely because I seem to only ever recall stories (yes, and people) that, at some point, I actually liked. Reading is absolutely an escape for me, an oasis for my busy mind and fully scheduled day to day existence.

Generally I choose my books this way: first, if recommended to me by a trusted reader friend; second, I prefer my books to be FAT, with small print - I read fast, so I want big bang for my buck and the fatter the better; and third, I want to be captured in the first page, so I always read it before I buy or borrow.

What I notice from the list below, though not a complete surprise, is that I want a strong and vivid description to carry me instantly away from my real world and into the story. This list of first lines from a few favorite books (that span my reading life) has been a great reminder of what were some incredibly good stories, which I recommend you read, if you haven't already.

When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.

-The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

Even in high summer, Tintagel was a haunted place; Igraine, Lady of Duke Gorlois, looked out over the sea from the headland.

-The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley


“When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets," Papa would say, "she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing."

-Geek Love, Katherine Dunn


Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.

-Ahab's Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund


In the shade of the house, in the sunshine of the riverbank near the boats, in the shade of the Sal-wood forest, in the shade of the fig tree is where Siddhartha grew up, the handsome son of the Brahman, the young falcon, together with his friend Govinda, son of a Brahman.

-Siddhartha, Herman Hesse


The wind being fierce and the tides unobliging, the ship from Harwich has a slow time of it.

-Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire


She woke at midnight.

-Palace Walk (book one in the Cairo Triology), Naguib Mahfouz


In a broad valley, at the foot of a sloping hillside, beside a clear bubbling stream, Tom was building a house.

-The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett


For the first fifteen years of our lives, Danny and I lived within five blocks of each other and neither of us knew of the other's existence.

-The Chosen, Chaim Potok


Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.

-Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder


There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

-Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë


In 1972 I was sixteen – young, my father said, to be traveling with him on his diplomatic missions.

-The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova


I could hear a roll of muffled drums.

-The Other Boleyn Girl, Philipa Gregory


***

Now you know Karen can read! Listen to Karen sing here.

284 comments:

1 – 200 of 284   Newer›   Newest»
anjie said...

Karen, I love this list! My major favs as first lines? The Outsiders (sets tone, setting, character so perfectly -- how'd Hinton do that at age 16???) and The Chosen. Of course, Geek Love, Ahab's Wife and The Mists of Avalon hold a special place in my heart, too.

The Pillars of the Earth and The Historian caught my eye. I've heard you talk of them before. Now I'll have to put them on my list of must-reads.

Thanks for posting!!!

Jennie Englund said...

More Karen, More Karen!!!

Those lines are fab! I'm ashamed to read how few of your recommends I've read, but will definitely be hitting up the library next week.

It was REALLY great "hearing" from you!

KUrlie said...

Thanks for posting it Anj! You probably know The Outsiders is one of my alltime favorite books. I read it one summer, as a young teenager I think, and each time I finished the last page I turned back and started at the beginning again.I did this I know at least 15 times.I never wanted it to end! And I truly believe that 'first line' is one of the very best.
Jennie! I am glad you might have some stuff to add to your reading list:)
I definitely do after the list Anj posted w/ all those first lines.

Peace out girlies.

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