February 6, 2004

Opening Sentences

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Recently, I’ve been reading a collection of short stories by Jorge Luis Borges. This particular collection, The Aleph and Other Stories, 1933-1969, contains some commentary by Borges on each of his stories. In his comments on “The Dead Man,” Borges writes:

Here, as in other cases, I have begun with a long opening sentence. My feeling is that first sentences should be long in order to tear the reader out of his everyday life and firmly lodge him in an imaginary world. If an illustrious example be allowed me, Cervantes apparently felt the same way when he began his famous novel (p. 272).

Perhaps there’s something to be said for this approach. But surely there’s also something to be said for the short punchy opening that catches the reader before he can catch his breath. Something like “Hale knew they meant to murder him before he had been in Brighton three hours.” (Recognize that one?) How could you not keep reading?

Posted by John Barach @ 1:57 pm | Discuss (0)

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