54 great opening lines: 34

The town itself is dreary; not much is there except the cotton-mill, the two-room houses where the workers live, a few peach trees, a church with two coloured windows, and a miserable main street only a hundred yards long.

The Ballad of the Sad Café, Carson McCullers

*****

The odd link between this story and the one I wrote about yesterday, Anna Karenin, is that I pulled both of them from an author’s bookshelf while she was thinking of something to dictate to me.  The Ballad of the Sad Café is sad at the beginning, sad all the way through, and sad at the end.  But the writing had me under its spell.  McCullers kept me turning pages with lines like:

‘So do not forget this Marvin Macy, as he is to act a terrible part in the story which is yet to come.’

We have to remember Marvin Macy for the next fourteen pages before he reappears.  Her storytelling is almost oral.  I wanted to learn from her and underline phrases on every page, but I couldn’t.  The book has to go back on my friend’s shelf.

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