Just Because it’s Gorgeous

I’m working on my next column for the Pikes Peak Writers Blog, and I’m pouty because I can’t seem to justify the inclusion of one of my favorite novel excerpts. My article is (loosely) about different ways to open a novel. To illustrate my points, I’m using the first lines of some of my favorites, and the excerpt I’m trying (and failing) to use is one of my all-time top three.

The trouble is that the book (Gilead by Marilynne Robinson) is complex and richly layered, so if I were to use it in the article, it would need a good deal of explanation to show how it relates to my central thesis.

But I love it and I want everyone else to read it and love it too. So, just because I’m the blog boss over here, and because I feel like it, I’m offering it below for you to read and enjoy. (FYI: the liberties with grammar and punctuation are intentional.)

I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old. And you put your hand in my hand and you said, You aren’t very old, as if that settled it. I told you you might have a very different life from mine, and from the life you’ve had with me, and that would be a wonderful thing, there are many ways to live a good life. And you said, Mama already told me that. And then you said, Don’t laugh! because you thought I was laughing at you. You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother’s. It’s a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern. I’m always a little surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after I’ve suffered one of those looks. I will miss them.

It seems ridiculous to suppose the dead miss anything. If you’re a grown man when you read this–it is my intention for this letter that you will read it then–I’ll have been gone a long time. I’ll know most of what there is to know about being dead, but I’ll probably keep it to myself. That seems to be the way of things.


There. I feel better. Don’t you?


One thought on “Just Because it’s Gorgeous

  1. Love that book!

    Though I hadn’t really thought about the opening before. Other than after reading it, I desperately wanted to get to know the narrator.

    How about this opening, from a book I just finished:

    “On the morning of the best day of her life, Maud Flynn was locked in the outhouse, singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

    Kinda a different way to start a story…
    (from Laura Schlitz’s _A Drowned Maiden’s Hair_)

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