Where the liberal-humanist sensibility has always held the literary work to be a form of self-expression, a meticulous sculpting of the thoughts and feelings of an isolated individual who has mastered his or her poetic craft, a technologically savvy sensibility might see it completely differently: as a set of transmissions, filtered through subjects whom technology and the live word have ruptured, broken open, made receptive. I know which side I’m on: the more books I write, the more convinced I become that what we encounter in a novel is not selves, but networks; that what we hear in poems is (to use the language of communications technology) not signal but noise. The German poet Rilke had a word for it: Geräusch, the crackle of the universe, angels dancing in the static.
"My favourite opening line is from Albert Camus’s The Stranger : “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.”. It’s punchy, colloquial, and disturbing. It also taps out a rhythm for the rest of the book. Another would be from Swann’s Way by Proust: “For a long time I went to sleep early.” It reverses the basic expectation with which you start a novel – to see activity, thought, or change of some kind. Instead you fall straight into sleep and the underworld. It’s hypnotic. First lines – and first pages – are so important when you’re unpublished and trying to get an agent or publisher’s attention. You know that she won’t look past a page or two, so you’re trying to pack as much as you can into the opening sentence. When I began writing, I assumed that first sentences had to be flamboyant; unexpected; long and dazzling to the reader and also encoded cunningly with the big themes of the book. You began with a Douglas Fairbanks-meets-Michel Foucault sort of first line. I no longer think that. The point of the first sentence of a book is to get someone to read the second sentence. I think the real unit is the first page and not the first sentence. I do spend a lot of time on the first page, and I try to make it interesting enough so that someone browsing in a store would, on the basis of the first page, consider buying my book.”
- Aravind Adiga
via Irish Times