De favoriete openingszinnen van Stephen King

augustus 1, 2013

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Stephen King zit soms maanden te prutsen aan de openingszin van een roman. In een interview geeft hij uitleg bij zijn favoriete openers. Over de openingszin in James M. Cains The Postman Always Rings Twice – “They threw me off the hay truck about noon,” – zegt hij het volgende:

“It’s a quick introduction to the writer’s style, another thing good first sentences tend to do. In “They threw me off the hay truck about noon,” we can see right away that we’re not going to indulge in a lot of foofaraw. There’s not going to be much floridity in the language, no persiflage. The narrative vehicle is simple, lean (not to mention that the book you’re holding is just 128 pages long). What a beautiful thing — fast, clean, and deadly, like a bullet. We’re intrigued by the promise that we’re just going to zoom.”

Maar waar het volgens King in essentie over gaat is de herkenbaarheid van de ‘stem’ van de schrijver. En die hoor je al van in de eerste zin:

“But for me, a good opening sentence really begins with voice. You hear people talk about “voice” a lot, when I think they really just mean “style.” Voice is more than that. People come to books looking for something. But they don’t come for the story, or even for the characters. They certainly don’t come for the genre. I think readers come for the voice.

A novel’s voice is something like a singer’s — think of singers like Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan, who have no musical training but are instantly recognizable. When people pick up a Rolling Stones record, it’s because they want access to that distinctive quality. They know that voice, they love that voice, and something in them connects profoundly with it. Well, it’s the same way with books. Anyone who’s read a lot of John Sanford, for example, knows that wry, sarcastic amusing voice that’s his and his alone. Or Elmore Leonard — my god, his writing is like a fingerprint. You’d recognize him anywhere. An appealing voice achieves an intimate connection — a bond much stronger than the kind forged, intellectually, through crafted writing.

With really good books, a powerful sense of voice is established in the first line. My favorite example is from Douglas Fairbairn’s novel, Shoot, which begins with a confrontation in the woods. There are two groups of hunters from different parts of town. One gets shot accidentally, and over time tensions escalate. Later in the book, they meet again in the woods to wage war — they re-enact Vietnam, essentially. And the story begins this way:

“This is what happened.”

Lees meer openingszinnen op The Atlantic.

De honderd beste openingszinnen volgen American Book Review.

Weergaloos blijft de opener van A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man van James Joyce:

“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.”

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