for starters

I think I become obsessed with Edmonton's streetscapes when I am working night shifts. If I believed in being lonely, perhaps I would blame loneliness. Instead, I think my curiosity or fascination stems from the quiet of Edmonton's downtown streets at night. Men curl up on the sidewalks to sleep, and taxi cabs slow way down to encourage you to take a lift.

There is really nothing special about my walk home each night. I suppose I could be walking home along any street in any city anywhere in the country. Last night, I was greeted by the sweet scent of the river valley. Tonight, a puddle of orange puke waited half a block from my apartment building. The puddle was actually there this afternoon, too, but in the hours since I last saw it someone placed a plastic bag atop. This does nothing to hide the smell but hopefully the street cleaners will have their way with it.

I know, I know. Not a lovely streetscape. I hope I'm not doing any particular injustice to Edmonton; it really is a lovely city, marked by the same problems as any other place.

So, a totally different subject....

I've been thinking a lot lately about proper starts. Books are not like newspaper articles; they do not have a lede, per se. But there is a certain expectation of having them start off on the right foot. They should draw the reader in with something special, some little curiosity that makes a person keep going.

You're probably thanking me for being Capt. Obvious now.

But I wanted to share some of my favourite starts, pretty randomly pulled from my book shelves. (While pulling, I grabbed a bunch of other books I expected to have bright starts, and was sorely disappointed. Perhaps tomorrow I will share the worst bunch in another blog entry.)

From John Irving's A Widow for One Year:

One night when she was four and sleeping in the bottom bunk of her bunk bed, Ruth Cole woke to the sound of lovemaking--it was coming from her parents' bedroom. It was a totally unfamilliar sound to her. Ruth had recently been ill with a stomach flu; when she first heard her mother making love, Ruth thought that her mother was throwing up.

From Amulya Malladi's The Mango Season:

Don't kill yourself if you get pregnant, was my mother's advice to me when I was fifteen years old and a classmate of mine was rumoured to have committed suicide because she was with child.

From Margaret Atwood's Lady Oracle:

I planned my death carefully; unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to control it. My life had a tendency to spread, to get flabby, to scroll and festoon like the frame of a baroque mirror, which came from following the line of least resistance. I wanted my death, by contrast, to be neat and simple, understated, even a little severe, like a Quaker church or the basic black dress with a single strand of pearls much praised by fashion magazines when I was fifteen. No trumpets, no megaphones, no spangles, no loose ends, this time. The trick was to disappear without a trace, leaving behind me the shadow of a corpse, a shadow everyone would mistake for solid reality. At first I thought I'd managed it.

And, perhaps the simplest of them all, from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451:

It was a pleasure to burn.

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