What The Dickens – what’s your favourite?
Starting a piece of writing, let alone a literary masterpiece, from scratch on a blank piece of paper must definitely be one of the hardest brain tasks ever. I mean, how do you hit the reader for six as cricket lovers say? Dickens is one of my favourite authors. Yes, he moralizes a little too much (afterall, he came up the hard way) and yes, some of his characters are a little too saccharine (Little Dorrit) but the man was a literary genius so all is forgiven, Charles. These are my favourite Dickens book openers:
“Chapter 1: I am Born”.
A Tale of Two Cities
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short the period was so much like the present period …”
LOL. Isn’t it funny how every generation thinks their time is different? Wrong!
“Now what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasonable animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. Stick to Facts, Sir!”
Classic. There are lies, damned facts and statistics.
This one I remember reading and thinking, whoa, this book’s gonna be a scorcher:
“London. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas, in a general infection of ill-temper. Fog everywhere. On the river; down the river. On the Essex marshes, on the Kentish heights. Gas looming through the fog in diverse places.
The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest, near that leaden-headed old obstruction: Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar at the very heart of the fog sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery. Never can there come fog too thick, mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds this day, in the sight of heaven and earth.”
And he only just got started. In fact I was a little cheat, as the careful Dickens reader would have noticed, abridging several sentences from the early paragraphs. But hey, artistic licence, what the dickens?