Friday, March 30, 2012

First Line Friday


MacEvoy and I are both admitted suckers for Metafiction. So, when I recently came across today's first line, I was immediately sold on the premise of the entire novel (that's the beauty of a good first line). Now, I haven't actually read the novel yet, but it's waiting for me patiently on my shelf. Here is the first line:

"The first time that Jean-Claude Pelletier read Benno Von Archimboldi was Christmas 1980, in Paris, when he was nineteen years old and studying German literature. "

The novel is the critically acclaimed 2666 by Roberto Bolano. And Bolano's first line is packed with intrigue. Without having actually read the novel, I can assume that (i) Jean-Claude Pelletier is some sort of intellectual bibliophile, (ii) Archimboldi's writings are going to be central to Pelletier's core experience, and (iii) the setting is Europe. A beautiful literary recipe! Is it not?

Those of you who have actually read 2666 will please correct me if any of my assumptions are completely off-base.


  1. Agreed. It's a great first line.

    2666 is actually comprised of 5 books, so I suppose you've got five "first lines" to analyze there.

    I'd have to say the first and the last books were definitely my favorites. Coincidentally, they are the ones that deal with Archimboldi...

  2. So, I have read a lot of commentary about actually "skipping" the middle books in 2666. Is this recommendable? Should I only read the first and last books?

    Please advise.

    1. That depends. Are you a pansy who's afraid of big books?

      Just kidding. I don't believe Bolano meant for them all to be published in one volume (which was done after his death), but all five sections kind of swirl tangentially around- or, in the case of "The Part About the Crimes," deal directly with- a series of murders that take place in a Colonia Juarez-like city in northern Mexico. They do loosely form one greater whole, with the first and last books relating most closely to each other.

      I say go for the whole enchilada, and I'll even work up a separate post to encourage you to get through book #3, where the author spends a couple hundred pages detailing the countless murders.

  3. If the 1st and 3rd books are the most closely related, what would you say to someone considering reading 2666 in that order? (1st book, then 5th book, then back to 2nd, 3rd, 4th).

    1. Interesting question. It's the 1st and 5th that are most closely related. But if you read in your proposed order, you'd probably lose interest in books 2-4. Here's why:

      Book 1 will eventually take you to Santa Teresa (Mexico) in search of Archimboldi. Books 2-4 are all set in Santa Teresa, if I remember correctly, and the reader is left to wonder what secret connection there might be to Archimboldi's story in each of those sections. Book 5 will finally lead you to some concrete information about the mysterious writer, starting in Europe and ending up in Santa Teresa.

      So book 1 plants the mystery, book 5 gives you "some" payoff, but books 2-4 might not hold your interest once you get that final info in book 5.

      At least that's how I remember it.