Thursday, July 09, 2009

Her Unusual Desires

Thanks, Andrew, for drawing my attention to this, the winners in a competition to produce the worst first line of an imaginary novel. Only one actually made me laugh - 'In a flurry of flame, fur, fangs and wicker, thus ended the world's first and only hot air baboon ride'. Thank you, Tony Alfieri from Los Angeles, where I know such things are a daily occurrence. I can improve on it, of course - 'With one flick of his loins he satisfied her unusual desires.' - though this could be Norman Mailer, not me. It's a line that has been in my head for years, but even the mighty internet cannot seem to establish its provenance.


  1. Brilliant (yours, not theirs. The 'winners' are too long. Martin Amis writes whole books comprising lines like that, but somehow it works for him).

    I've always wanted to use this line:

    A deep and faceless fear gripped him from a place whereof he knew not; he shrugged, and laughed in its face.

  2. "At the striking of noon on a certain fifth of March, there occurred within a certain causal radius of Brandon railway-station and yet beyond the deepest pools of emptiness between the uttermost stellar system one of those infinitesimal ripples in the creative silence of the First Cause which always occur when an exceptional stir of heightened consciousness agitates any living organism in this astronomical universe."

    In case you don't recognize it, that's the opening sentence of A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys. So how could you not read on?

    Actually, there's something to be said for the view that most of the truly great novels start with a naff first sentence, or at least a decently dull one (think Eliot, Hardy, James, any of the 19th-century greats).

  3. Your older fans may remember that in the early seventies a group of popular writers decided to write a Jacqueline Susann sort of bodice-ripper. The deal was that the book was to be presented to the publisher under a pseudonym as serious, but the writing was to be as bad as possible. It was called "Naked Came the Stranger" and it was a best-seller for a couple of months until the joke was revealed. It was screamingly funny. The first sentence went on interminably and absurdly and described a sultry California suburbanite driving past the "freshly butchered lawns".

  4. It made me laugh too until I discovered that I was distantly related o the baboon in question. Sc**w you Appleyard. I'm now going to console myself by looking for someone to satisfy my unusual desires. So there!!!!!!!!!

  5. I suppose one of the signs of middle age is that one finds oneself dwelling more on the challenge of satisfying usual desires than unusual ones.

  6. It's not the unusual desires that are for me the focus but that nonchalant flick of the loins. Makes it worth being a man, just the aspiration