Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Morning Glory

To continue my series of revealing amazing lines or phrases that for one reason or other haunt me, this week I've chosen what might be the most interesting sentence ever written. I'm incredibly jealous of this sentence. From the first time I read it in spring of '97, I've been kind of obsessed with its author.

"In Watermelon Sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar."

Not only is this line a perfect bit of surrealism that captures the kind of imaginative childhood imagery that has always fascinated me, but it also an amazing little piece of writing with a cadence and rhythm that is so striking. The rhythm of words is such a huge part of my writing style. I'm forever reading and re-reading sentences and playing with them until they not only say what I want but also sound write. Brautigan's sentence is one of those measuring sticks for me. It says something interesting, in an interesting way, and sounds beautiful as it says it.

This also happens to be the opening line from the book, In Watermelon Sugar. Now, that's an opening. This book was very much on my mind in the earliest stages of working on the novel I've recently finished. There's a dream quality to the book that is handled so beautifully and delicately that I admire. I didn't go back to look at the book, because I never like to be influenced by, but rather inspired by. Instead, I just dwelt on the impressions I had from reading it so long ago. Those impressions became the inspiration for some of the elements in my book.

Opening lines aren't really my thing. I mean, I appreciate them and spend a lot of time on my own, but I'm not obsessive about them either as some readers tend to be. But since I happened to chose one today, I thought I'd share another.

"A screaming comes across the sky."
Thomas Pynchon (Gravity's Rainbow)

Arguably the finest opening line ever, this one also inspired part in my new novel. When I read this book two years back, I spent many hours thinking about this line. I still do. It certainly inspired a key element in my story. I could never get the image of my head...neither can my character.


  1. I've not heard those two - very good. I remember Roger Zelzany's opening to 'Lord of Light'.

    "His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god."

  2. Nice. That's actually a very Brautigan kind of line. It could have come right out of "A Confederate General from Big Sur"