Monday, June 25, 2012

“Beginning” of the Week #19

For this week’s “beginning” I chose the opening passage from Richard Matheson’s 1954 masterpiece I Am Legend. When I first read this novel, I couldn’t put it down. The book is far better than the film adaptation from a few years ago (though the movie’s change in setting from California to New York City made for some great visuals). Here’s how it begins:


On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back. 
If he had been more analytical, he might have calculated the approximate time of their arrival; but he still used the lifetime habit of judging nightfall by the sky, and on cloudy days that method didn’t work. That was why he chose to stay near the house on those days. 
He walked around the house in the dull gray of afternoon, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, trailing threadlike smoke over his shoulder. He checked each window to see if any of the boards had been loosened. After violent attacks, the planks were often split or partially pried off, and he had to replace them completely; a job he hated. Today only one plank was loose. Isn’t that amazing? he thought.
– Richard Matheson, I Am Legend

I think this has all the elements of a great beginning: a strong hint of conflict, writing that sets the tone and mood for the story, and a character stuck in an interesting and somewhat mysterious situation. From here, the book just gets better and better until its unpredictable end. But let me know your view – what do you think about the beginning of I Am Legend?

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