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My Favorite Book Opening

By JLP | October 28, 2006

Is there an opening paragraph or two of a particular book that stands out to you? Of all the books I have read, there is one opening passage to one particular book that stood out to me the most. I don’t know why, but for some reason, the opening to M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled really stood out to me the first time I read it:

Life is difficult.

This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction tha tshould not be and tha thas somehhow been especially visited upon them, or else upon their families, their tribe, their class, their nation, their race or even their species, and not upon others. I know about this moaning because I have done my share.

Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them? Do we want to teach our children to solve them?

Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems.

I suppose this stood out to me because I agree with it. I mean, let’s face it, life is difficult. We are kidding ourselves if we think otherwise. Depressing? Maybe a little. But as Dr. Peck says, once we understand that life is difficult it is no longer difficult. In other words, it is all about perception. I think the problem with society is that we go through life thinking that everything should be perfect for us and when we find out that it is not, we find someone to sue.

Anyway, this is my favorite book opening. Now I would like you to share what your’s is. You can leave a comment with your favorite. Or, if you are a blogger, you can post your favorite book opening on your blog, send me a link to it, and I’ll be happy to included it right here on this post.

Topics: Books, Personal Growth | 5 Comments »


5 Responses to “My Favorite Book Opening”

  1. Gina Says:
    October 28th, 2006 at 10:01 am

    “There are ladies everywhere, but they enjoy generic recognition only in the South. There is a New Englad old maid but not a New England lady. There is a Midwestern farm wife but not a Midwestern lady. There is most assuredly a California girl, but if anyone spoke of a California lady, even Phil Donahue and Alan Alda would laugh.”

    by Florence King in Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady

  2. J.D., pretentious literary snob Says:
    October 30th, 2006 at 9:00 am

    I know it’s trite, and often mocked, but I love the intro to Moby Dick. It captures the tone (especially the dark humor) of the novel perfectly:

    “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.”

    I am also quite fond of the opening to Proust’s masterwork:

    “For a long time I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, when I had put out my candle, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to say “I’m going to sleep.” And half an hour later the thought that it was time to go to sleep would awaken me; I would try to put away the book which, I imagined, was still in my hands, and to blow out the light; I had been thinking all the time, while I was asleep, of what I had just been reading, but my thoughts had run into a channel of their own, until I myself seemed actually to have become the subject of my book: a church, a quartet, the rivalry between François I and Charles V. This impression would persist for some moments after I was awake; it did not disturb my mind, but it lay like scales upon my eyes and prevented them from registering the fact that the candle was no longer burning. Then it would begin to seem unintelligible, as the thoughts of a former existence must be to a reincarnate spirit; the subject of my book would separate itself from me, leaving me free to choose whether I would form part of it or no; and at the same time my sight would return and I would be astonished to find myself in a state of darkness, pleasant and restful enough for the eyes, and even more, perhaps, for my mind, to which it appeared incomprehensible, without a cause, a matter dark indeed.”

    I’m serious when I say that I love these two openings. This is writing thick and savory, full of meat and texture. As a writer, and a reader, I love the classics. They’re classics for a reason. They’re transcendent. Yes, one often needs to work at them in order to read them (Proust, especially), but it’s so much more rewarding than reading the latest Harry Potter. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Harry Potter — it’s just a different type of book.)

  3. RSN Says:
    October 30th, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    Ok, from an avowed bibliophile – this is a tough one… (and I’ll throw a second vote in for Moby Dick)

    “Marley was dead to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that.”

    Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

    “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

    Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

    “A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”

    Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

    Oh, there are just too many… I’ll leave with this:

    “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

    Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  4. J.D., pretentious literary snob Says:
    October 30th, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Ah, RSN: One Hundred Years of Solitude is a masterpiece. I love it. And that is a fantastic opening. One of the best discussions our book group ever had!

  5. Get Rich Slowly » Off-Topic: Favorite Book Openings Says:
    October 30th, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    […] JLP posted a fun question at All Things Financial: “Is there an opening paragraph or two of a particular book that stands out to you?” JLP cites the intro to M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled as his favorite: Life is difficult. […]

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