Archive for February, 2012

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Every unpublished novelist (and perhaps the published ones as well) stresses about their opening sentence.  Publishers (and agents) give you so little scope to impress that if you don’t have them at hello, you could be done for.  And I, too, admit to occasionally judging the buying-worthiness of a book by its first sentence if not its cover.  But what makes a good first sentence is not clear.  The most famous include the opening line of Pride and Prejudice (“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”) and that of Anna Karenina (“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”)  The former still makes me smile and the latter always makes me think, “No, I don’t think so, and that’s a lot of pages to be reading about unhappiness.” (which might explain why I’ve never gotten past the first page of Anna K (good thing for Tolstoy, publishers in his day were willing to read further)).  A Neil Simon play I was once in had the protagonist wax on about the opening line of Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead – “Nobody could sleep.” – which isn’t bad but, when it comes to sleep references, I prefer the opening of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”).  This sentence I notice didn’t make it on “100 best first lines of novels” as decided by the American Book Review (http://www.pantagraph.com/news/article_a125216a-649f-5414-88b5-76a688ea3b6a.html).   Another favourite however did: “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”( Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar).  Strangely enough it speaks to me of youth.

The Etymology of Spam

Monday, February 13th, 2012

After being away for a couple of weeks, I finally managed to find time to log into my blog account only to be faced with 363 spam emails.  Yes, 363, that’s 19 pages worth.  Which got me thinking why spam was called spam.  According to Wikipedia, it is named after the American luncheon meat Spam (is that stuff even produced any longer?) by way of a Monty Python sketch in which Spam is included in almost every dish.  That is simply terrific.  Who first thought of that and how did it catch on and stick so effectively?  And I especially love that spam – the email variety – would be named after a canned precooked meat (whose name comes from spiced ham) that is American but that I am convinced only the English recall.  It was shipped there by the Americans during the war.  In fact, I know the odd Englishman who still refers to our American cousins as Spam.

And just so that you can all enjoy some of my 363 items of spam, here are some gems:

“All of our motherland is thinking, do Vancouver Canucks Jerseys never think you should think, it’s just several things.”

“The earliest ice-cubes hockey is a fantastic age group”

“Male girls and boys found out that divorce lawyers atlanta bet on your National basketball association gamers the best fun”

I can sympathize with the spammer who laments, “im stuck i really dont understand how i go about how to stop comments on my page like this”.