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Discover: First Lines #1

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discover first lines #1 (Z/Y/X/W) | Gimme Some Reads

#1: Z | Y | X | W

It’s easy to fall into the trap of deciding in advance what will be good or interesting. As an experiment in discovery, I thought I’d pull four books off my shelves each week and share their first lines. And to have some sort of guidelines, I will follow the alphabet — backwards (skipping over letters as need-be). So, first up will be four books off my shelves whose titles begin with Z/Y/X/W.

Surprisingly I did find a Z, but failed on the Y — so I pulled a Yeats book; there were no Xs, but plenty of Ws — though only the first two I laid eyes on got listed below.

Four First Lines

1. Zoetrope: All Story, edited by Adrienne Brodeur and Samantha Schnee, is a collection of some of the best pieces (as of 2000) from Francis Ford Coppola’s literary journal. The first line on page one is from Sara Power’s short story, “The Baker’s Wife.”

First Lines: Zoetrope | Gimme Some Reads

Page One of Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope: All Story | © 2000 Harcourt, Inc.

“Most Friday evenings since they were married they spent on their porch that listed steeply toward the street.”

2. Early Poems by William Butler Yeats. This 1993 edition compiles all the lyric poetry from Yeats’ first six collections together in one volume. And interestingly enough,  though page one begins Yeats’ Crossways (1889) collection of verse, the first line is a William Blake quote.

“The stars are threshed, and the souls are threshed from their husks.”

First Lines: Yeats' Early Poems | Gimme Some Reads

Page One of Yeats’ Early Poems | © 1993 Dover Publications

3. The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle. Originally published in 1887, my copy is from 1915. It’s a collection of “four and twenty marvelous Tales, being one for each hour of the day; written and illustrated By Howard Pyle. Embellished with Verses by [his sister] Katharine Pyle.” I picked this book up at an estate sale simply because of the illustrations. Page one is a Howard-illustrated verse of  Katharine’s.

“One of the Clock, and silence deep
Then up the Stairway, black and steep
The old House-Cat comes creepy-creep
With soft feet goes from room to room
Her green eyes shining through the gloom
And finds all fast asleep.”

First Lines: The Wonder Clock | Gimme Some Reads

Page One of Howard Pyle’s The Wonder Clock | © 1915 Harper & Brothers

4. The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis. Originally published in 1949, my copy is from 1973. The first page begins the titular address, which Lewis preached on June 8, 1941. This address is one of my favourites among his writings.

“If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness.”

discover first lines #1 (Z/Y/X/W) | Gimme Some Reads

My Favourite

Of the four first lines, I was most intrigued by #2 (Blake/Yeats) and #4 (Lewis). However, of their follow-up lines, it was Lewis who kept my attention. So, here are the first few lines from page one of The Weight of Glory:

“If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive…”

First Lines: The Weight of Glory | Gimme Some Reads

Page One of C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory | © 1973 Eerdmans Publishing

» Next week, it’ll be four books whose titles begin with V/U/T.

Join in the discovery and leave a comment:
what’s your favourite first line
among your own four Z/Y/X/W books.

Kindle-editions available here: Yeats’ Early Poems, Blake’s Complete Illuminated Books, Pyle’s The Wonder Clock, and Lewis’ The Weight of Glory.

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bet mercer

Bet Mercer is a poet-photographer who writes at Gimme Some Reads and Everyday Poetry. She loves quotes, reading her favourite books over again, great conversation, laughter, trees, films, and travelling the world. Follow along with Bet on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, Etsy and Google+.

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0 comments on “Discover: First Lines #1”

  1. Wonderful idea and a great way to begin to see ways others have used to ‘hook’ readers successfully enough to be published!

    Love your artistry in your pictures as well. Will have to check my book cases for books in these kind of categories!

  2. What a wonderful idea! I always linger on first lines and good ones have me periodically returning to the first page.

  3. What a fun idea – and a great way to revisit things on the shelf. I’ll have to go dig through mine. Do I even have a Z???

  4. Didn’t find any Z Y or X but, as you did, lots of of Ws. The first I saw was a book on writing: Woe is I. It’s first line is:

    “When a tiny word gives you a big headache, it’s probably a pronoun.”

    For what it is, not a bad beginning and lets you see the author has a sense of humor, that this won’t just be a dry English lesson.

  5. I love this idea and am going to try it as a way to introduce a new way of discovering books/authors to my Middle School students!

    • Yay! Great idea, Michele. Hope it works well for you and your students. It’s definitely been an interesting practice for me; I continue to be surprised by what memories and ideas arise from it.