Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Great Moments in Literature

At work today we were having a discussion about favorite sentences from great books. I think perhaps the greatest sentence I ever read was from One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

But I also clearly remember a sentence from a bodice-ripping paperback I found under a chair in the bandroom in eighth grade called Rangoon. The main character was an American woman named Lysistrata, of all things, who found herself in Burma in the 19th century, carrying on an affair with the aptly named local ruler Ram.

Heedless of her muffled cry, he ripped off his loincloth and roughly knifed himself into her.

That was pretty exciting stuff for a 13 year old. Nineteen years later, I still remember that sentence, and I still want to know who left it in the bandroom.


little-cicero said...

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly to the past"

Quinn said...

Check out the Bulwer-Lytton annual fiction contest for best bad opening lines. It's rich stuff.

LC, I like your choice.

Anthony said...

"I felt myself crumple the moment the train pulled out of the station."

It's one of my own, I will admit, but that word "crumple" cannot be bettered.

Matthew said...

The following from "Middlemarch" has always stuck with me:

"For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

obliquity said...

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice:

"Is not general incivility the very essence of love?"

E.M. Forster, A Room With A View:

"Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice."

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited:

"O God, if there is a God, forgive him his sins, if there is such a thing as sin."

Akira Kurosawa, Ran:

"Man is born crying. When he has cried enough, he dies."

Nathan said...

"Then there was the smell of heather crushed and the roughness of the bent stalks under her head and the sun bright on her closed eyes and all his life he would remember the curve of her throat with her head pushed back into the heather roots and her lips that moved smally and by themselves and the fluttering of the lashes on the eyes tight closed against the sun and against everything, and for her everything was red, orange, gold-red from the sun on the closed eyes, and it was all of that color, and it was all that color, all of it, the filling the possessing, the having, all of that color, all in a blindness of that color."

Followed shortly by the classic (and more quotable)...

"But did thee feel the earth move?"

They made me read THAT in high school, and I'll be forever obliged.

chiron said...

I saw Tess of the Goobervilles when I was nine and was totally tittilated by the rape scene. Same thing with Saturday Night Fever. At ten years old, I had NOOOO IDEA how wrong it was. But now I'm older, and my favorite quote is too long to memorize, but it's one of the first sentences of Virgina Woolf's To the Lighthouse: "Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrow, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallise and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out picures from the illustrated catalogues of the Army and Navy Stores, endowed the picture of a refrigerator, as his mother spoke, with heavenly bliss."