It Was the Best of Lines, It Was the Worst of Lines – March 14, 2019

Yellow Train.jpg

“The nickname of the train was the Yellow Dog.” 

Eudora Welty, Delta Wedding.

A train going…..somewhere.  A puffing steam engine, maybe.  Sounds like it, doesn’t it?  Yeah, I think so.  A sleek diesel couldn’t be the Yellow Dog.  Is it really yellow?  Well, it makes me happy to see it that way.  Why are we interested in this train?  Who’s on it?  So we read a few more words…..nine year old Laura McRaven traveling alone.  Alone?  Where’s she going?  And we read a little bit more.  To visit her mother’s people at Shellmound.  Hmmm.  And when she gets there?  “Poor Laura little motherless girl…”  You see that Yellow Dog chugging way across the delta there?  That train, the Yellow Dog, in that tiny vignette of an opening line will chug you right into this beautiful book.  An opening line that knows its job.

And why wouldn’t it?  Miss Eudora walked on water.  If you don’t know her brilliant, deceptively simple work, there’s genius out there waiting for you.  Best book on becoming a writer?  One Writer’s Beginnings.  Eudora Welty.  Short stories?  Oh my goodness, lose yourself.  As for me, Delta Wedding is one of the very few books I’ve read more than once and will read again….because of the train nicknamed the Yellow Dog.

It Was the Best of Lines, It Was the Worst of Lines – February 26, 2019

Touhou - knees shivering knees shaking Remilia Scarlet Gaming GIF

“A man was staring at her in the oral care aisle.  A gorgeous, make-your-ovaries-shiver man.”

RaeAnne Thayne, The Cliff House

OK, I know that’s two lines, but one is a fragment, and it could just as easily be one if you changed the period to a comma.  Either way, it’s just awful.  A man who makes your ovaries shiver?  Does that call for medical intervention?  Oh, yes, there are gorgeous men.  I’ve seen ‘em.  Maybe, on a good day, more than one.  But make your ovaries shiver?  Further, if a man is staring at me in the oral care aisle, I’d probably beat feet out of there.  After all, Ted Bundy was nice looking, too.

In the third line, we learn that “Daisy Davenport McClure” is the chick with the shivering ovaries.  Precious.  In my experience, introducing a female character this early on with all three names is inauspicious from a literary perspective.  Then, in the very next line we’re hit with “discombobulated” and in the line after that “Dark, wavy-haired, green-eyed…”.  “Uncle”, I cried and tapped out.

Ms. Thayne and all your satisfied readers, if I’ve done an injustice, I apologize.  Perhaps The Cliff House is a tongue-in-cheek riot of a good read and my loss for not reading on.  However, heartbeats are finite, and readers must decide early on where they want to spend theirs.  I had to leave Daisy and that green-eyed man for others.  Sorry.

It Was the Best of Lines, It Was the Worst of Lines: Memorable and Not-So-Memorable First Lines in Literature – August 9, 2016

It Was the Best of Lines, It Was the Worst of Lines is a new feature which I hope will appear from time to time here on a day in the (reading) life.  I’ll be spotlighting what I think are some worthwhile, and some dismal, first lines from books and short stories as I come across them, sometimes with my accolades or scathing commentary, as appropriate.  Other times I may let the lines just speak for themselves.  Hope you enjoy!  Comments and opinions, for and against (it’s a free country, y’all), are always welcomed as long as we all stay respectful.

Vampire castle

“When Elena told people she was a vampire hunter, their first reaction was an inevitable gasp, followed by, ‘You go around sticking those sharp stakes in their evil putrid hearts?'”

Nalini Singh, Angel’s Blood.

Ugh.  I know I’m probably going to catch some heat from Nalini Singh’s fans and paranormal romance (i.e., bandwagon lit.) readers, but come on peeps!  This isn’t exactly the kind of sentence that inspires one to bated breath and the anticipation of what’s to come.  Trite, trite, trite, banal, banal, banal, and just all-around lazy, boring writing.  “You go around sticking those sharp stakes in their evil putrid hearts?” sounds like crappy dialogue from a Buffy the Vampire Slayer rip-off.

Now, granted, I only read the first line (and a few more in the next paragraph where Singh’s character refers to “the idiot fifteen-century storyteller who’d made up that [staking] tale in the first place”), so maybe Angel’s Blood is meant to be campy fun.  I wouldn’t know though because I couldn’t get past those initial paragraphs.  If you want campy bloodsuckers, Charlaine Harris does it much better.

I’m not sure what 15th century “idiot” Singh’s referring to (the first literary appearance of the vampire is widely credited to John Polidori’s 1819 short story, “The Vampyre”, although vampire-like beings can be found in folklore all the way back to ancient times), but for my money Bram Stoker and, to a lesser degree, Anne Rice, did vamps best and darkest.  And dark is the only way a vampire should be (none of those sparkly Twilight chaps for me, thanks).  Stoker is, well . . . Stoker.  ‘Nuff said.  And Anne Rice, for all her verbosity and tendency toward melodrama, created a character in Lestat that has endured for years and set the standard for vampire assuredness and cockiness (and yes, Tom Cruise did get it right in the movie, and I’m no Cruise fan).