Sunday, June 21, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: The Miserable Mill

"Sometime during your life -- in fact, very soon -- you may find yourself reading a book, and you may notice that a book's first sentence can often tell you what sort of story your book contains." -- The Miserable Mill, by Lemony Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Fourth. The very reason I keep track of opening sentences here on RCR. After more discussion of the purpose of first sentences, Mr. Snicket explains that the first sentence of this story is "The Baudelaire orphans looked out the grimy windows of the train and gazed at the gloomy blackness of the Finite Forest, wondering if their lives would ever get any better" and warns that "if you wish to avoid an unpleasant story you had best put this book down." The back cover goes further, explaining the the unpleasantries inside include "a giant pincher machine" and "a bad casserole." Oh, no! It is this arch tone and intentional inversion of the fairy tale happily-ever-after idea that makes these books so fun. Over the last few years, I have nibbled through the first three Lemony Snicket books. I don't usually read children's books, but my sister turned me on to these. They make me giggle. I just wish they had existed when I was a kid.


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