There is no disputing the power of eloquent lines of fiction. Whether they plunge us into forgotten sorrow or lift us up into sweet contemplation—they move us. They resonate. They pull at the emotional strings that allow us to truly seek to see another human being in a light that could rarely happen in another medium. They inspire us to keep reading—to hear the whole story. To continue with a process that allows us to unfold into a slow melting of empathy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of a few phrases. Fiction has never been more important than today. Our world of instant communication via texting and social media, should, in theory, allow us to better heard, seen, acknowledged, understood. Yet, I find, more often than not, I get, or receive, fragmented, misunderstood and quickly judged or dismissed text messages. And social media has become a PR vehicle where pictures convey what we want others to see. We are rarely understood. Rarely accepted. And often isolated. Today, more than ever, fiction is vital. Why? Because it allows us to dig deeper. To look closer. To care. To connect to a truth in someone, or in some circumstance, that is completely different, yet essentially the same on some level, to our own.
It allows us to truly see the essence of another’s soul. To see their true beauty. Even to see their lack there of. But to see someone’s raw essence and to try to learn more, understand more.
Take Liz Moore’s beautiful novel Heft. I dare anyone to read this book and not fall in love with the chronically obese, homebound Arthur Opp, with a soul as kind and large as his 550 pound body.
So, this post is dedicated to finding those lines of fiction that allow the magic to start. Those lines that truly hook us and gut us. You know what I mean. I might be 100 pages into a new novel, but am just not committed until THAT line. So let’s go there and share our favorites. Take John Green‘s well-loved phrase from The Fault In Our Stars: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
Or what about this paragraph, that I instantly connected with:
“Okay, maybe I’m not such a shitty writer. But I can’t pull my ideas together, Van Houten. My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
During a brief conversation with my neighbor, a screen writer, he shared his two favorite lines from Ernest Hemingway‘s The Old Man and The Sea, both metaphors for obsession, competition and the mentality of war:
“Looking at his damaged hand, he reflects that “pain does not matter to a man.”
“The old man thinks that the fish is killing him, and admires him for it, saying, “I do not care who kills who.”
Here are some of my favorites, although I have so many more:
“I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s not just how much you love someone. Maybe what matters is who you are when you’re with them.” – Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist.
“Fear tastes like a rusty knife and do not let her into your house. Courage tastes of blood. Stand up straight. Admire the world. Relish the love of a gentle woman. Trust in the Lord.” – John Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle.
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.
“These are the quicksilver moments of my childhood I cannot remember entirely. Irresistible and emblematic, I can recall them only in fragments and shivers of the heart.” ― Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides.
“Rape is a crime against sleep and memory; it’s afterimage imprints itself like an irreversible negative from the camera obscura of dreams.” — Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides.
“You see if you tell yourself the same tale over and over again enough times then the tellings become separate stories and you will generally fool yourself into forgetting you started with one solitary season out of your life.” — Kaye Gibbons, Ellen Foster.
“Again, I feel misplaced, dropped into a life not my own.” — Patti Callahan Henry, The Stories We Tell.
I have TOO many favorite lines…I’m dying to know yours. PLEASE chime in!!! L. xo