first lines (voice)

Stephen King says first lines are all about voice. i think a first line is knocking on the door. and i ask: who is there for me? will the door be thrown open with abandon? left ajar for me to enter at my own speed? or is there no one waiting?

let me check the books on my bedside table:

  1. “Two mountain chains traverse the republic roughly from north to south, forming between them a number of valleys and plateaus.”  Malcolm Lowry in UNDER THE VOLCANO.   this is an authorial voice that tells me to come into the story.  it is distant, informative.
  2. “In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.”  Carson McCullers in THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER.  this voice invites me in and promises to tell me a dark, menacing story.  the voice is quiet but substantial.
  3. “At dusk they pour from the sky.” Anthony Doerr in ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE.  this voice is pure magic, from a poetic perspective.
  4. “He heard them before he saw them.”  Michael Crummey in SWEETLAND.  this authorial voice tells me to ask a question:  what did he hear?  it’s also brilliant because it appeals to my sense of sound and that’s unusual these snapshot days, not that there’s anything wrong with snapshots.
  5. “It’s the summer of 1970 and I’ve got one lovely ambition.”  Guy Vanderhaeghe in DADDY LENIN.  a first person appeal. Guy is waiting for me, ushering me into a storytelling session.  the living room is comfortable and there will be music on a record player.  A RECORD PLAYER.  Guy will let me chose the records.  i’ll probably fall in love, just a little.
  6. “You can hear pain.”  Marina Endicott in CLOSE TO HUGH.  i’m taken by the arm and ushered into a quiet confidence. it’s personal. and the day will vanish and it won’t matter because, in the end, all we’ve got is one another, you know?

what are your books saying?