"Call me Ishmael."
A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
And so on.
Generally, my fiction reading is confined to reading that is appropriate for all ages, as it is something I read aloud to the whole family. And, for the most part, I find it to be of sufficient quantity. I am more of a nonfiction person, anyhow, and the stories we read as a family are truly great, so it is not that I am missing much.
But as the weather turned colder, nothing appealed to me more than a big, thick, famous work just for me.
I say "thick" because I decided to read Dickens.
We all have our little secrets when it comes to reading. Once I say I love to read, people will inevitably proceed to refer to an author I just can't seem to get interested in. I think these people leave the conversation thinking I couldn't possibly love reading if I don't love, adore, and have memorized whichever author they had mentioned.
Dickens is one of my little secrets. Along with Jan Karon's Mitford books, his works are some that I've never fallen in love with. I tried Oliver Twist at least twice. I felt horrible about not liking it.
I still do.
Anyhow, I tried a couple other works by Dickens, and each time the result was the same. I just couldn't do it. I wasn't drawn to the book, and force-feeding is never pleasant.
But something inside me said that Christmas is for Dickens, and I thought, perchance, to pick up a copy at PaperBackSwap. Well, they were all out of A Christmas Carol, so I ordered The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, a simply bound first-edition facsimile including all the original illustrations by Phiz.
The opening line, because it is Dickens, is also the opening paragraph. The book itself says that Chapter One "introduces all the rest." And so it does. I fell in love with this book because of the first line:
There once lived in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr. Godfrey Nickleby, a worthy gentleman, who taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason: thus two people who cannot afford to play cards for money, sometimes sit down to a quiet game for love.Tweet