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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Once Upon a Time, there was Lipstick and Goons

August 8th, 2010 at 19:44

Day 18 – Favorite beginning scene in a book

Soooo many good beginnings. Here are four favourites:

“The trouble started the day Howard came home from school to find the Goon sitting in the kitchen.” (Archer’s Goon, Diana Wynne Jones)

DWJ kicks arse at openings. In this one, the first novel of hers that I knowingly read and the one that set me on an addiction that would continue for more than a decade, the first chapter sets up the situation: Howard and his sister Awful come home to find a ‘goon’ in their kitchen. He has come from someone called Archer, and he is demanding payment of ‘two thousand’ from their Dad. By the end of the chapter we have learned that the payment is two thousand words, not pounds, and that Archer farms power. It will take the whole book to discover exactly what all those things mean.

When the girl came rushing up the steps, I decided she was wearing far too many clothes. It was late summer. Rome frizzled like a pancake on a griddle-plate. People unlaced their shoes but had to keep them on; not even an elephant could cross the streets unshod. People flopped on stools in shadowed doorways, bare knees apart, naked to the waist – and in the backstreets of the Aventine Sector where I lived, that was just the women. I was standing in the Forum. She was running. She looked overdressed and dangerously hot, but sunstroke or suffocation had not yet finished her off. She was shining and sticky as a glazed pastry plait, and when she hurtled up the steps of the Temple of Saturn straight towards me, I made no attempt to move aside. She missed me, just. Some men are born lucjy; others are called Didius Falco.”
(The Silver Pigs, Lindsey Davis)

A Philip Marlowe style detective in the mean streets of Ancient Rome. Lindsey Davis had me at hello. But this paragraph beautifully introduces the dry, self-deprecating voice of Falco the informer, and the powerful character of the city of Rome, which (soft-shoeing on the subject of slavery aside) she conveys quite beautifully.

The world is full of little towns that people want to leave, and scarcely know why.”
(Growing Rich, Fay Weldon)

I only love two Fay Weldon novels, and I came to both of them from excellent TV productions – the other is Big Women, which has a more convoluted opening but rather beautifully uses as it’s theme the iconic phrase ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’. Growing Rich introduces its three protagonists by page 2: three sixteen-year-old girls, Carmen the leader, Laura the pretty one and Annie who was quite desperate. They long to escape from their small town of Fenedge, East Anglia, and the Devil has already overheard their complaints while speeding by in his shiny black car. This is basically, now I come to think of it, The Witches of Eastwick with teenage girls, and none of the characters are entirely likeable, but it’s a book that has always had a powerful hold over me.

“I’m standing on the door of the Less is More club, thinking about my fingernails.”
(Fabulous Nobodies, Lee Tullock)

Long before Ab Fab or Gossip Girl, Reality Nirvana Tuttle (Really for short) trained me to adore shallow characters who were obsessed with artifice and fashion, as long as they did it with humour. This book, full of frocks named after famous divas, best friends who think they are Audrey Hepburn, clubs and magazines and nail polish, was one of my favourites and total comfort reads for many years. Unlike Tam Lin, I’m a little afraid to actually reread it now, in case I learn something about myself that I don’t want to know.

Other Days of the Book Meme:

Day 01 – A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)
Day 02 – A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about
Day 03 – The best book you’ve read in the last 12 months
Day 04 – Your favorite book or series ever
Day 05 – A book or series you hate
Day 06 – Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time
Day 07 – Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise
Day 08 – A book everyone should read at least once
Day 09 – Best scene ever
Day 10 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 11 – A book that disappointed you
Day 12 – A book or series of books you’ve read more than five times
Day 13 – Favorite childhood book OR current favorite YA book (or both!)
Day 14 – Favorite character in a book (of any sex or gender)
Day 15 – Your “comfort” book
Day 16 – Favorite poem or collection of poetry
Day 17 – Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.)
Day 18 – Favorite beginning scene in a book
Day 19 – Favorite book cover (bonus points for posting an image!)
Day 20 – Favorite kiss
Day 21 – Favorite romantic/sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 22 – Favorite non-sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 23 – Most annoying character ever
Day 24 – Best quote from a novel
Day 25 – Any five books from your “to be read” stack
Day 26 – OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending
Day 27 – If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!
Day 28 – First favorite book or series obsession
Day 29 – Saddest character death OR best/most satisfying character death (or both!)
Day 30 – What book are you reading right now?

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One Response to “Once Upon a Time, there was Lipstick and Goons”

  1. What I found…..August 12, 2010 « colbyjack.net Says:

    [...] Tansyrr talks about Favorite beginning scene in a book as part of Tansyrr’s on going 30 day books on a theme series.  Here. [...]

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