Opening Sentences

Samuel Beckett (Irish Writer-Dramatist-Poet, 1906-1989)

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

Samuel Beckett, "Murphy", 1957


Norman Maclean (American Scholar, Writer, 1902-1990)

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.

Norman Maclean, "A River Runs Through It", 1976


Lawrence Durrell (British Novelist-Dramatist-Poet-Travel Writer, 1912-1990)

Lanscape tones: brown to bronze, steep skyline, low cloud, pearl ground with shadowed oyster and violet reflections. The lion-dust of desert: prophet's tombs turned to zinc and copper at sunset on the ancient lake. Its huge sand-faults like watermarks from the air; green and citron giving to gun-metal, to a single plum-dark sail, moist, palpitant: sticky-winged nymph. Taposiris is dead among its tumbling columns and seamarks, vanished the Harpoon Men... Mareotis under a sky of hot lilac.

    summer: buff sand, hot marble sky.
    autumn: swollen bruise-greys.
    winter: freezing snow, cool sand.
                clear sky panels, glittering with mica.
                washed delta greens.
                magnificent starscapes
And spring? Ah! there is no spring in the Delta, no sense of refreshment and renewal in things. One is plunged out of winter into: wax effigy of a summer too hot to breathe. But here at least, in Alexandria, the sea-breaths save us from the tideless weight of summer nothingness, creeping over the bar among the warships, to flutter the stripped awnings of the cafes upon the Grand Corniche. I would never have...

Lawrence Durrell, "Balthazar", 1958

The sea is high again today, with a thrilling flush of wind. In the midst of winter you can feel the inventions of Spring. A sky of hot nude pearl until midday, crickets in sheltered places, and now the wind unpacking the great planes, ransacking the great planes...

Lawrence Durrell, "Justine", 1957

The oranges were more plentiful than usual that year. They glowed in their arbours of burnished green leaf like lanterns, flivkering up there among the sunny woods.

Lawrence Durrell, "Clea", 1960

The Agon, then. It begins. Today there is a gale blowing up from the Levant. The morning came like a yellow fog along a roll of developing film. From Bivarie, across the foaming channel I can see from the window, the river god has sent us his offering: mud, in a solid tawny line across the bay. The wind has scooped out the very bowels of the potamus across the way, like a mammoth evacuation, and bowled it across at us. The fisherman complain that they cannot see the fish anymore to spear them. Well, the rufus sea scorpion and the octopus are safe from their carbide and tridents. Deep-water life utterly shut off, momentously obscure behind the membrane of mud. The winter Ionian has lapsed back into its original secrecy.

Lawrence Durrell, "The Black Book", 1938


Bernard Malamud (American Writer, 1914-1986)

The early November street was dark though night had ended, but the wind, to the grocer's surprise, already clawed. It flung his apron into his face as he bent for the two milk cases at the curb. Morris Bober dragged the heavy boxes to the door, panting. A large brown bag of hard rolls stood in the doorway along with the sour-faced, gray-haired Poilisheh huddled there, who wanted one.

Bernard Malamud, "The Assistant", 1957


Charles Simic (Serbian-American Poet, 1938-....)

Mark had a terrific sense of humor. It didn’t leave him even in the final weeks of his life when he was in great pain and still went on teaching and giving poetry readings. I saw him five days before he died. He was in a hospital waiting to be released so he could go home and die, since his case was hopeless. When the time came for him to dress, he didn’t want any help, but being so emaciated and weak it was taking him a long time to put on his shirt and button it, so I went over to give him a hand. As I was doing that, I couldn’t help telling him what a beautiful shirt he was wearing. And it certainly was! It took him a while to answer, but he finally said with a mischievous little smile: “I always dress my very best when I go to the hospital.” He didn’t add “to die,” but his smile and the look in his eyes told me that’s what he meant.

From closing paragraph of article titled "Mark Strand: Living Gorgeously" by Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books, January 24, 2015

Walking the city streets one becomes a collector of faces, some of which stay with us forever. 

From closing paragraph of article titled "The Joy of the Street" by Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books, June 17, 2015


Adam Gopnik (Canadian American writer, essayist & commentator, 1956-..)

Civilization, one might say, is the thing over there at the corner table, drinking coffee in a cold climate.

Adam Gopnik, "The Coffee of Civilization in Iceland", The New Yorker, April 16, 2015


Muriel Spark (Scottish Novelist, 1918-2006)

So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.

Muriel Spark, "A Far Cry From Kensington", Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1988

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