I have never begun a novel with more misgiving. If you're going to read this, don’t bother. After a couple pages, you won't want to be here. So forget it. Go away. Get out while you're still in one piece. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. All this happened, more or less.
I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Call me Ishmael. In a sense, I am Jacob Horner. I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids. For a long time, I went to bed early. You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. I am a sick man. ... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. Mother died today.
It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. It was the day my grandmother exploded. In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. I was 50 years old and hadn't been to bed with a woman for four years. I had no women friends. I looked at them as I passed them on the streets or wherever I saw them, but I looked at them without yearning and with a sense of futility. I masturbated regularly, but the idea of having a relationship with a woman—even on non-sexual terms—was beyond my imagination. [But] It was love at first sight. Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems, in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the tops of her stockings? Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes' chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression.
A screaming comes across the sky. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They shoot the white girl first. We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. It was a pleasure to burn. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peephole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me. They're out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them. It was like so, but wasn't. Where now? Who now? When now?
Already guessed what it’s all about? Reads quite nicely don’t it? It better! Because the above is a ‘story’ written by stitching together some of the most famous opening lines in literature. Opening lines only. Except in a couple of instances, only the first sentence or the first few words. Look them up. Ah yes. The title of the post too. The classic evergreen opening from Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford.
Next up? A story using famous ending line? Maybe. A song on the same line? Maybe. Maybe not. Once is enough. Next time, new experiment.