Monday, May 12, 2008

First lines…

As we all know, the first few lines of a novel, if well-crafted and intriguing enough, will compel the reader to turn the next page. Below are the first lines of several novels I’ve read throughout the years. I invite La Bloga readers to add comments (below) to share favorite first lines. In any event, here they are:

I shoulda told la Mollie I’d be back to her place right after the gig. But I knew she wouldn’t believe me, specially cause we were playing at Big Eddie’s, this sleazebag jazz joint in the Mission close to where my old girlfriend Sonia lives. -- La Mollie and the King of Tears by Arturo Islas.

My family’s lived in Echo Park for my whole life. It’s our home. We belong there. They must call it Echo because you can’t hear yourself think around here with all the noise. The people here are crazy. -- Locas by Yxta Maya Murray.

I could easily have died that day at dawn after I got lost, not only because death itself stood in my way, but because I craved death with a passion. -- Paradise Travel by Jorge Franco.

She was made after the time of ribs and mud. By papal decree there were to be no more people born of the ground or from the marrow of bones. -- The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia.

His nation chewed him up and spat him out like a piñon shell, and when he emerged from an airplane one later afternoon, I knew I would one day make love with him. -- Mother Tongue by Demetria Martínez.

When Amalia Gómez woke up, a half hour later than on other Saturdays because last night she had had three beers instead of her usual weekend two, she looked out, startled by God knows what, past the screenless iron barred window of her stucco bungalow unit in one of the many decaying neighborhoods that sprout off the shabbiest part of Hollywood Boulevard; and she saw a large silver cross in the otherwise clear sky. -- The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gómez by John Rechy.

I don’t recall all the subtleties and particulars and some of the events are screwed up in my head -- out of sequence, out of synch. Hell, there were too many late nights and fuzzy mornings, and even back then I had a hard time keeping it straight. -- The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz by Manuel Ramos.

Celia del Pino, equipped with binoculars and wearing her best housedress and drop pearly earrings, sits in her wicker swing guarding the north coast of Cuba. -- Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García.

According to my mother, I was conceived in a plum orchard. How I know this bit of husbandry is due to my mother’s attempt to explain to me the gap in years between myself and the rest of my many brothers and sisters. -- A Fabricated Mexican by Rick P. Rivera.

On the cool October morning when Cayetana Chávez brought her baby to light, it was the start of that season in Sinoloa when the humid torments of summer finally gave way to breezes and falling leaves, and small red birds skittered through the corrals, and the dogs grew new coats. -- The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea.

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. -- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

I don't like what Operation Iraqi Freedom has done to me. I went to the war a soldier; I came back a vampire. -- The Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo.

I tripped over a seam in the trailer's chrome floor. Real quick, before I could do any serious damage, I introduced myself, sat down in the kitchen nook, and did my best to mumble out socially appropriate words between no-blink stares. Fireworks, I watched her lick maple frosting off her fork, all flat-tongue sticking out the way Nana used to slap me upside the head for doing. I was beyond smitten. -- Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties by Felicia Luna Lemus.

The Zumaya child had walked to Chavela's house barefooted, and the soles of her feet were blackened from the soot of the new pavement. She swung her tar feet under the vinyl chair as she stacked large, empty Ohio Blue Tip matchboxes the old woman had saved for her into a pyramid on the kitchen table. Throughout the house, scraps of paper, Scotch-taped reminders, littered the walls. Cardboard boxes sat nestled like hungry mouths of birds wide open for wrapped tumblers, cutlery, souvenir ashtrays. -- Their Dogs Came with Them by Helena María Viramontes.

Not that many years ago I would go to a house in the neighborhood, not always someone's I knew, one I'd never been inside of, where I'd only have to maybe hop a fence, nothing complicated, and from the backyard I'd crawl through an open window. -- The Flowers by Dagoberto Gilb.

Clouds brushed the wings of the airplane. José Francisco Verguerio Silva looked out the window and suddenly had the feeling of bursting through the glass, tumbling slowly through white heavenly wisps, and finally colliding with the ground, his long Brazilian name smashing into pieces and scattering. He got up to his feet, sobbing as he looked for all the parts of his name, but he had lost them. -- Samba Dreamers by Kathleen de Azevedo.

If I had been a rational human being, I would have had a normal job and I never would have gotten involved with any of them. But I was not a rational human being. I was and remain a square peg in a round world. -- Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta.

◙ Michael Sarabia’s short story, Tío Chu, has been published by The Minnesota Review. Sarabia lives and works in East LA, teaching English and Social Studies at Garfield High School. ¡Bravo!


Fernando D. Castro
Sunday May 18, 2008, 2:00 p.m.
Featured poet with open mic! Bring your work to read!

Avenue 50 Studio
131 No. Avenue 50
Highland Park, CA 90042, 323.258-1435

Visit Avenue 50’s website for more information.

◙ BOOK GIVEAWAY: As many readers of La Bloga already know, Bilingual Press has just released Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press) edited by yours truly. The anthology (available in both hardcover and paperback and may ordered directly from the press, various online sellers or through your local bookstore) spans 60 years of Los Angeles fiction and features 34 stories and novel excerpts from new and established Latino/a authors.

So, here’s a little deal: I will mail an inscribed copy of Latinos in Lotusland to the twentieth e-mailer. In the e-mail, include your name and mailing address. Also, give me the titles of three of your favorite books and tell me how you want me to inscribe the book. I will post the winner’s name (but not address, of course) and the list of three favorite books. Limitation: sorry, but I can only mail within the United States. My e-mail address is I will announce the winner next Monday. Feel free to send in e-mails all week long because I might have a few other gifts of offer...

◙ All done! So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadres. ¡Lea un libro!


Anonymous said...

You included my favorite by Marquez.

Rebel Girl said...

For a time, they both held on to their lives, gasping softly, whispering feverishly, and bleeding profusely, their two minds far, far away from the cruel, burrowing bullets that had left them mere seconds away from death. Face-to-face, they spoke their last words in crimson-colored breaths. Theirs was a withering language, one for which there are no living speakers.

"gods Go begging" - Alfredo Vea

Anonymous said...

Very nice collection of first lines, Daniel!

Here's an addition:

"In their mother's eyes, Josie Salazar knew, she and her sister Serena were more like the Indians than the Spanish ladies they were brought up to be."~Arturo Islas, Migrant Souls

Anonymous said...

Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven. When she came the beauty of the llano unfolded before my eyes, and the gurgling waters of the river sang to the hum of the turning earth. The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood. She took my hand, and the silent, amgic powers she possessed made beauty from the raw, sunbaked llano, the green river valley, annd the blue bowl which was the white sun's home.

"Bless Me, Ultima" Rudolfo Anaya

Ciudad Universitaria said...

Uno clásico, Don Quixote:

In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a
greyhound for coursing. An olla of rather more beef than mutton, a salad on most nights, scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and a pigeon or so extra on Sundays, made away with three-quarters of his income... The age of this gentleman of ours was bordering on fifty; he was of a hardy habit, spare, gaunt-featured, a very early riser and
a great sportsman.