It’s time for “First Line Friday” again!
So, turns out that perhaps the most buzzed novel of the last several years, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, actually has a pretty stunning first line:
'The news about Walter Berglund wasn’t picked up locally - he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now - but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times.'
Read it again slowly, as if it’s all you have to depict the purpose of the novel. Here is what I love about this first line:
- I love the name Walter Berglund. Not sure why. It’s cumbersome, to be sure, but it sticks. Walter Berglund. Sounds American. Sounds like a protagonist.
- I love how much this sentence says: There is a guy named Walter, he had a wife named Patty, they had lived in St. Paul, then moved to DC, and there is some unforeseen “news” that we’ll learn about later in the novel. It’s actually quite a lot of information for one line, but it’s smooth and eloquent. Not unruly or overly burdensome.
- I love the phrase “the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill.” The phrase so accurately depicts white people coasting through St. Paul in an Audi on their way to Starbucks prior to attending their daughter’s lacrosse game. It says all of that in 6 words: The Urban Gentry of Ramsey Hill. Love it.
As for the rest of the novel, I am still torn almost a year after reading it. It has glimpses of greatness, but also has lulls of meaningless. But that’s a topic for another post.
Just enjoy the first line today.