Saturday, February 04, 2006

You never get a second chance

The American Book Review collects their "100 best first lines from novels":
I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.
—-Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March (1953)
More correctly, this list is 100 famous first lines from novels. Is "Call me Ishmael" good? Or "I am an invisible man"?

Confusion between 'good' and 'well-known' is nothing new, but I don't understand why people (especially reviewers and critics, like my nemesis, David Denby) so often mix up different types of quality.