“There once lived, at a series of temporary addresses across the United
States of America, a traveling man of Indian origin, advancing years and retreating mental powers, who, on account of his love for mindless television, had spent far too much of life in the yellow light of tawdry motel rooms watching an excess of it, and had suffered a peculiar form of brain damage as a result.“
Salman Rushdie, Quichotte
Readers: “Hey, writer person, we thought you only liked short first lines!”
Writer person: “Nah, who told you that?”
It’s all in the execution, you see. It’s just so easy (and tempting) to ruin an introductory line by packing it full willy-nilly, but here’s the thing we mustn’t forget. On the other side of however, there are lengthy beauties like the one above by Mr. Rushdie. Sublimely well-executed, rich and delicious. As detailed and meticulously constructed as a Da Vinci drawing, this lovely thing is seamless and not a word is wasted. Even the formal sounding “United States of America” appears as completely essential to the piece. Yes, there’s a good deal of information here, actually, but it is not being asked to do double duty and advance the story. That is not its job. Rather, it is generative – producing question after question in the reader’s mind and that irresistible pull – read the book, read the book, read the book. The subject matter is delightfully quirky, but that sentence is smooth as silk. Hats off to an artist.