First Lines


I'm a little late on the "looking back" meme; everyone else has already moved on to looking forward. But I stole this idea from Dorothy over at Of Books and Bicycles, and couldn't bear to let it go: the concept is to post the first lines of one's first posts from every month in the year, as a representation of one's reading year. Mine are:

  • January: I don't read a lot of war literature, so it's noticeable when I'm suddenly experiencing two stories of war back-to-back.
  • February: Michael Newton's Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children was not all I had hoped it would be, which is actually quite fitting.
  • March: In James Wilson's prologue to his excellent history of Native America, The Earth Shall Weep, he discusses the idea of the "Vanishing American," still disturbingly prevalent in white American culture.
  • April: I am strangely and strongly drawn to stories of quarantine.
  • May: Although I have almost zero interest in military strategy, I do believe I would read a biography of Vice Admiral Nelson if Hermione Lee wrote one.
  • June: You know what I realized the other day?
  • July: If I have ever read a book that struck such an elegant balance between philosophical inquiry and sordid fascination with the grotesque as Stephen Asma's Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads, I certainly don't remember it.
  • August: I am no foodie.
  • September: We've just returned home from an epic family-reunion-slash-business-trip-slash-cross-country drive, and while it was amazing and encouraging and all things good, I'm SO GLAD to be home.
  • October: After the blood and guts of Blood Meridian, I needed to add a little civilization back into my reading life - and nobody does over-civilization like Edith Wharton.
  • November: Believe it or not, I started this little history over a month ago: while I was wading through the viscera of Blood Meridian, I occasionally needed something with which to decompress, to take my mind off the gore and scalpings and other grotesqueries that make up McCarthy's novel.
  • December: By rights, I should have been head over heels for Kobo Abe's The Ark Sakura.

I think my top impression here is that obviously Blood Meridian made a huge impression on me: two different months begin with books I read as counterpoints to McCarthy!

Also, I kind of love my April line.

Also, and not necessarily obvious here, I think my posts have generally become stronger over the course of the year, which is heartening to see. I'm very much looking forward to another year of reading and writing about books!


  • You're so 2009, Emily! I'm actually kind of partial to your bizarre gastronomic July-August segueway, but rereading these Martial-like epigrams (I kid, I kid) makes me remember a whole lot of reviews I quite enjoyed. Really, really enjoyed. Welcome back from your mini-vacation and thanks a bunch for providing this fan with such high quality reading material over the course of the year!

  • April is a good one. I also like October. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am reading Hermione Lee's bio of Wharton right now. And You're right, if she wrote a bio of Admiral Nelson I'd read that too!

  • Those are great first lines! I just got Lee's Biography: A Very Short Intro, which I'm looking forward to getting into. I like her a lot!

  • Well your posts do always strike me as strong and compelling :) And you're certainly right about your April post's first line. I love it! Instantly engaging; it's like the opening to a good story.

    Really looking forward to your 2010 reviews! :)

  • What a fun concept. I'm tempted to do it as well, although I'm pretty sure my opening lines are not nearly as interesting! Let me chime in with everyone else and thank you for a great year of excellent blogging on your part! Looking forward to getting a peak at your reading endeavors in 2010.

  • Richard: Aww, you're a peach. :-) Thanks for the nice words.

    Stefanie: Thanks! Ooh, that Wharton bio is fascinating, isn't it? I'm not even a real Wharton fan, but I really enjoyed it.

  • Dorothy: I'm super curious about Biography; I'll look forward to your thoughts. I'd also be really interested to read her Virginia Woolf's Nose essays (I think that's the right title?). Also, thanks!

    Mark David: I'm looking forward to yours as well! Thanks for stopping by. :-)

    Sarah: Thank you so much. I'm really looking forward to Woolf and beyond in 2010!

  • what a fun thing to do! Except my first post every month is a "month in review" post which is boring. Looking forward to reading your posts in the coming year -- you always have such great things to say!

  • Thank you so much for the nice words, Rebecca! I suppose if you wanted to do a similar thing you could do your second post or something (second sentence of second post?).

  • I so enjoyed this post and your wonderfully intriguing first lines. April is my favorite too.

    Your posts since I've been reading in addition to strong and compelling have always struck me as well written and smart. They always show a good solid reading of not only the book you are reviewing but also enough other books for you to place the book in question in the world. They go across as well as down. You also seem to catch nuances of thought that pass so fleetingly through my brain that I'm not quick enough to catch them. These are the reasons I love reading your posts!

  • June 2012

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    link to Wolves 2011 reading list
    link to more disgust bibliography