While looking for a good read this weekend, I stumbled across Tinkers, Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize winner for 2010. (I’m a sucker for books with fancy award seals on their covers.)
It was brilliant.
Great books generally have memorable opening lines (or maybe it’s just that we remember great books, and the first lines just come along for the ride). See if you can name these classics by their first sentences:
- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
- All children, except one, grow up.
- Call me Ishmael.
- It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
- All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
- Marley was dead, to begin with.
- Who is John Galt?
Tinkers’ opening line: “George Washington Carver began to hallucinate eight days before he died.”
Thus begins the story of an ailing octogenarian and the rich life slowly draining from him. It is a story of a man and his father and his father, and of the dual severity of nature and nurture in Calvinist New England at the turn of the century. The true star of the novel, though, is Harding’s prose. A single sentence, just to give you the feel:
This is the season—persevering done, woodpile high, north wind up and getting cold, night showing up earlier every day, dark and ice pressing down from the north, down on the raw wood of the cabins, on the rough-cut rafters that sag and sometimes snap from the weight of the dark and the ice, burying families in their sleep, the dark and the ice and sometimes the red in the sky through trees: the heartbreak of a cold sun.
Read it. All one hundred ninety-one pages. I’ll even let you borrow it.