Friday, February 24, 2012

First Line Friday!

In the comments of our first movie-related post, Tucker asserts that there is no better lit-fic film adaptation than Robert Redford’s take on Norman Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It. It is, as adaptations go, very true to the original. It helps that it was a short work to begin with, but even so, the film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1993. (And while it lost in that category, it did win best cinematography that year- it’s a gorgeous film.)

So let’s stack the first line of the book up against the first line of the movie, and see who comes out on top. Let’s let the original author, Mr. Maclean, kick things off:
“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.”
Right off the bat we see this is going to be a story about a family. Not only that, but a religious family. And then THWACK! He smacks us between the eyeballs with ‘fly-fishing.’

It’s hard to remember this now, but most people got their first introduction to fly-fishing in a movie theater in 1992. It’s one reason why a lot of fly-fishermen absolutely hate A River Runs Through It- the film had the adverse effect of crowding the best rivers in the West with legions of wannabe and novice fly-fishermen for the entire decade that followed. Anyway, after the reader asks themselves ‘what the devil is fly-fishing?’ they’re left to ponder the fact that whatever it is, in this book, and in this family, it’s been elevated to the status of religion. Very intriguing. Great first line. You can’t help but read on. Now for the movie:
“Long ago, when I was a young man, my father said to me... "Norman, you like to write stories." And I said, "Yes, I do." Then he said, "Someday, when you're ready... you might tell our family story. Only then will you understand what happened and why." In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.
Now, somebody tell me, please, what was gained by lumping those four lackluster sentences in front of Maclean’s fantastic first line? 
Bupkis, that’s what.   Norman Maclean 1: Hollywood 0. But read/watch them both. You won’t regret it.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree. The movie just muddied the waters of an otherwise marvelous first line.