Saturday, 27 October 2007

Thursday Thirteen on Saturday - Opening Lines

I don't do memes. But I'm doing this one. Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, right? We all know that.

Here are thirteen opening lines from thirteen novels. Which ones can you guess? Correct answers will be inserted as they come in.

(Too late folks; it's over. I'm putting all the answers in now.)

1. "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one. Or at least as close as we're going to get."
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, guessed by Annie #2

2. "Matrimony was ordained, thirdly," said Jane Studdock to herself, "for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other."
That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, guessed by Annie.

3. It came by mail, the old-fashioned way, since the Judge was almost eighty and distrusted modern devices.
The Summons by John Grisham, guessed by Anonymous (part way) and Annie #2.

4. No knowledge has come down of Joseph Knecht's origins.
The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi) by Hermann Hesse, guessed by Vomaxx at AW, who didn't turn up to put it in the comments here.

5. A squat grey building of only thirty-four storeys.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, guessed by Danika.

6. The news hit the British High Commission in Nairobi at nine-thirty on a Monday morning.
The Constant Gardener by John LeCarré, guessed by Eva.

7. The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-wracked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin, guessed by Poodlerat.

8. The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, guessed by Poodlerat.

9. My name is Perry L. Crandall and I am not retarded.
Lottery by Patricia Wood, guessed by Annie.

10. Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim with girded loins who appeared during that young novice's Lenten fast in the desert.
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, guessed by Annie #2.
Follow this up with the second sentence, and I consider it one of the best openings I've ever read.
Never before had Brother Francis actually seen a pilgrim with girded loins, but that this one was the bona fide article he was convinced as soon as he had recovered from the spin-chilling effect of the pilgrim's advent on the far horizon, as a wiggling iota of black caught in a shimmering haze of heat.
Great voice, sense of place, unusual but effective description and a good sense of the dry but sympathetic humour that characterizes the book. By the end of this second sentence I was smitten.

11. Here was the least common denominator of nature, the skeleton requirements simply, of land and sky - Saskatchewan prairie.
Who Has Seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell, guessed by the husband of Danika.

12. In the tombs of Kursi sits a man with his back to the sea.
Madman by Tracy Groot. Fantastic book, see my review in the previous post.

13. The cabin-passenger wrote in his diary a parody of Descartes: 'I feel discomfort, therefore I am alive,' then sat pen in hand with no more to record.
A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene. I was more than a little surprised that no one got this one.

And that's it for this time.

You can find the original here, but I found it through Superfast Reader. Oh, and Poodlerat has done one too.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Paramilitary training in kindergarten

It happens in Bangladesh. And this man, Shoaib Choudhury, is begging people in the West to speak up against it, to kick up a stink, to tell one more person.

Regular readers of this blog might recall me talking about Choudhury about a year ago, when he was in prison in Bangladesh, having dared suggest that his country should recognize Israel. He is now free in the West because of political pressure but amazingly has every intention of returning to his country to face trial.

"Islam is not a bad religion," Choudhury said, "but it is now in the hands of criminals and terrorists." And silence, he said -- silence from the West -- is what they want. Silence about the 9,000 kindergarten Madrassas in Bangladesh that include paramilitary training in their curriculum. About the 64,000 Koranic madrassas, heavily funded by Saudi Arabia, that are not accountable to authorities, where hatred for Israel, Jews and Christians is built into the school day; about the way the most beautiful young women are selected, educated, trained, given every advantage -- then sent to the West, as terrorists, to await their orders to act.

Read about his recent meeting with high school students to motivate them to become activists at True Ancestor (hat tip to Amba at Ambivablog). Further references are provided there.

Tell one more person.

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Monday, 22 October 2007

Monkeys Cause the Death of a Delhi Politician

Monkeys in DelhiThis one was just too weird to let it slip by.

BBC reports that the deputy mayor of Delhi has died after falling from his balcony while fighting off an attack by monkeys. The city has long been infested by aggressive monkeys, to the point that the High Court ordered the city to address the problem.

This is not only strange, it is profoundly so. The intersection of politics, ecology, religion, and urban planning make it more than just another item in a Bizarre News feed.

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I actually won!

Last DragonJ.M. McDermott announced a poetry contest a couple of weeks back that intrigued me. The prize was an autographed ARC (Advance Reader's Copy) of his upcoming novel, Last Dragon.

Being a little dense sometimes, I thought the contest was to write a poem about his book and seeing as I hadn't read it, I didn't try. But the description of the book at Amazon looked so promising, I eventually decided to make a stab anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. JM was nice enough to let me know I had misunderstood, that the poem was to be on the theme "last dragon", not on the book itself. My rather sorry little limerick had no chance. (You try converting advertising copy into poetry and see if YOU can do it!) So I tried again, even though there were barely 24 hours left before the contest closed.

The theme didn't seem to be too suited to limericks to me, so after considering the permissible forms I settled on a villanelle, a form of poetry that repeats two lines of a refrain at strictly specified intervals throughout. The most famous example is Dylan Thomas's iconic "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night" with its haunting "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." It seemed to me to be ideally suited for a lament. Throw in the fact that it was probably a little easier than a sonnet or a sestina, and my choice was made.

I'm not claiming that my poem is destined to live forever in anthologies (it won't), but I was pleased enough with the result of my efforts to submit it, although another week to mull over the rough spots would have been nice. And J.M. was pleased enough to award it first place, throwing in some editorial comments for free.

I am tickled pink. I get to read the book before everybody else but the reviewers. I will post a review of my own when we get closer to the release date.

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