What is the first line of your favourite book?
I sometimes think that a memorable first line is a bit of a curse. I know that might sound crazy. After all, authors go through a lot to try and find the perfect opening to draw people in. Surely it must be on the major keys to success? But think about it. What if you have a really great opening but the rest of the novel can’t live up? Every time I see rundowns of books with the best first lines, I see plenty of books that I don’t really care about. Pride and Prejudice? The opening is iconic, certainly, but I find the rest of it rather bland. 1984? The opening promises so much that the repetitive and long novel can’t fully deliver. So, a great opening line doesn’t always indicate a 5 star read. But what about my favourite reads? Do they all have attention grabbing first lines? Do they pass the first line test? Let’s find out.
Do you have a favourite book? I know that it’s one of the most difficult questions that you could possibly ask a bookish person. We have shelves crammed full of books, how the hell are we meant to edit that down to just one deserving book? It’s all about context, timing, age, and countless other variables. Although, we all have books that we prefer to the others. It’s like children: we all know our parents have a favourite but they’re just kind enough to not tell us. I’d definitely place The Monk at the top of my favourites list. The rest of the books on there might change as time goes by but this has been there since I first read it. I’ve always been a fan of the Romantic period and, though my studies, I became enamoured with gothic fiction. You may remember that I wrote a beginner’s guide to gothic fiction of the 1790s. I wrote my postgraduate dissertation on it and it was mainly so I could use this book. I love it. I’ve tried to make so many people read it but it’s not for everyone. It’s a bit much but, then again, so am I.
As I said in my Sunday Rundown yesterday, I’ve been struggling with reading so far this month. I’ve got loads of great books to read and I’m really looking forward to starting them. The only problem is, I just can’t seem to sit down and concentrate. Every night last week, I tried to read but I always started really late. It’s partly to do with the month I think. January is the worst month of the year. It feels so long. I’m sure time slows down. We’re all tired after Christmas and all of the food is weighing us down. The weather is miserable and there’s nothing going on. All around us, people are preaching about their new gym lifestyles by posting endless selfies (even though we all know it will last all of 3 weeks). People are going vegan or alcohol-free and feel the need to rub it in our faces every 5 minutes. January is a bad month, so forgive me if I’m not quite in the swing of reading yet. But I do have a plan. I’m going to binge audiobooks all month until I feel ready to read physical books again. That way, I don’t fall into a dreaded slump and fuck up my whole year.
Dear The Picture of Dorian Gray,
They say all women love a bad boy. Teenage girls? Phew, they can’t get enough of ’em. And you? You’re one of the biggest literary bad boys out there. I mean, you were once described by a magazine editor as containing a “number of things an innocent woman would make an exception to”. What kind of young girl could resist those bad boy credentials? Is it any wonder that I was obsessed with you? You were scandalous. You were immoral. You were going to turn my head and take me down a dark road. I couldn’t wait. And then I read you.
I’m not saying our first time was disappointing… it was just… not what I was expecting. You weren’t quite the bad guy I’d been lead to believe. Clearly you’d just read the ‘How to be a bad boy’ wikiHow page to get a few tips. Scandal? The only thing scandalous about you is how you maintained the reputation of being a dangerous book for so long. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t still like you. It was just like The Wizard of Oz; I’d pulled back the curtain to find nothing more than a rather tame novel that had gothic elements. Yes, there was something of a homoerotic undertone but it was nothing more scandalous than the volleyball scene in Top Gun.
What you are, Dorian Gray, is a wonderfully written tale that highlights the dangers of art for art’s sake. It is a tale that cautions against morality rather than promoting it. Any hints of Dorian’s immoral behaviour are hardly blatant and the suggestion of homosexual desire is pretty tame. You were not something for me to fear. You are story of a young man who goes to great lengths to preserve the only thing he cares about: his beauty. A man who wants to continue being the belle of the ball whilst being able to give in to his every desire. No matter how dark or sinful they were.
I still loved you but in a different way. You are classic Oscar Wilde. Full of quotable lines and wonderful witticisms. When I first read you I highlighted and memorised so many quotes. You know, cause I was a super deep and intelligent teenager. I got you. I got you more than anyone had when you first published and I, probably, got you more than anyone ever had. You were the first book I ever proclaimed to be my favourite. It was a bit of cliché and you were no doubt part of my attempt to create an image for myself as a creative and intelligent teen. But all teenagers are stupid.
Our first time may have been a bit rocky but we’ve found our rhythm. We’ve come to understand each other’s wants and desires. We’ve come to understand how we fit together. Maybe that initial spark has gone and you’re more comfortable and familiar these days but I still love you. Even now that I no longer have the desire to seem deep, well-read, and pretentious. How could I not? There is so much within your pages to feast upon. I always feel full and satisfied after reading. Even your truly horrendous film adaptation couldn’t scare me off. You meant so much to me that I named the fish I bought at university Dorian. Yes, I claimed it was partly to do with Finding Nemo too but, let’s be honest, I was a pretentious English literature student. Nobody saw through my bullshit.
You my teen love. My first real grown-up book love. You were an older guy, more experienced. But you treated me well. Better than I had thought you would have done considering your reputation. Unfortunately, I gained some insight and experience myself. I know more about the world and I’ve met books that satisfy me in ways you never could. It doesn’t mean I won’t always look back on you fondly. You were the perfect choice for my first favourite book. You were everything I needed.
The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold