Monday, August 28, 2006

Old Beginnings 11


1.The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town, Illinois, in the late cloudy October day, sneaking glances over his shoulder. Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.

So the salesman jangled and clanged his huge leather kit in which oversized puzzles of ironmongery lay unseen but which his tongue conjured from door to door until he came at last to a lawn which was cut all wrong.

No, not the grass. The salesman lifted his gaze. But two boys, far up the gentle slope, lying on the grass. Of a like size and general shape, the boys sat carving twig whistles, talking of olden or future times, content with having left their fingerprints on every movable object in Green Town during summer past and their footprints on every open path between here and the lake and there and the river since school began.

2. I was shown into the attic chamber by a grave, intelligent-looking man with quiet clothes and an iron-gray beard, who spoke to me in this fashion:

"Yes, he lived here- but I don’t advise your doing anything. Your curiosity makes you irresponsible. We never come here at night, and it’s only because of his will that we keep it this way. You know what he did. That abominable society took charge at last, and we don’t know where he is buried. There was no way the law or anything else could reach the society.
"I hope you won’t stay till after dark. And I beg of you to let that thing on the table- the thing that looks like a match-box- alone. We don’t know what it is, but we suspect it has something to do with what he did. We even avoid looking at it very steadily."

3. On a very hot day in August of 1994, my wife told me she was going down to the Derry Rite Aid to pick up a refill on her sinus medicine prescription -- this is stuff you can buy over the counter these days, I believe. I'd finished my writing for the day and offered to pick it up for her. She said thanks, but she wanted to get a piece of fish at the supermarket next door anyway; two birds with one stone and all of that. She blew a kiss at me off the palm of her hand and went out. The next time I saw her, she was on TV. That's how you identify the dead here in Derry -- no walking down a subterranean corridor with green tiles on the walls and long fluorescent bars overhead, no naked body rolling out of a chilly drawer on casters; you just go into an office marked PRIVATE and look at a TV screen and say yep or nope.

4. FOR the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not --and very surely do I not dream. But tomorrow I die, and today I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified--have tortured--have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror--to many they will seem less terrible than baroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the commonplace--some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.

5. Dear Reader:

In the summer of 1998, at an estate sale in Everett, Washington, I purchased a locked diary covered in dust, writings I believed to be those of Ellen Rimbauer. Beaumont University's Public Archive Department examined the paper, the ink and the binding and determined the diary to be authentic. It was then photocopied at my request. Ellen Rimbauer's diary became the subject of my master's thesis and has haunted me ever since. (Excuse the pun!) John and Ellen Rimbauer were among the elite of Seattle's turn-of-the-century high society. They built an enormous private residence at the top of Spring Street that became known as Rose Red, a structure that has been the source of much controversy. In a forty-one-year period at least twenty-six individuals either lost their lives or disappeared within its walls.

Sources posted below.
Old Beginnings 11
1. Something Wicked This Way Comes....Ray Bradbury
2. "The Evil Clergyman"....H.P. Lovecraft
3. Bag of Bones....Stephen King
4. "The Black Cat"....Edgar Allen Poe
5. The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer....Joyce Reardon?


braun said...

1. Overwrought writing - but a seller of lightning rods! I would keep reading. (Ah, it's Bradbury, the writing is explained)

2. Probably no. Gothic horror not my bag.

3. I like that this starts off very normally, and even when death occurs we have the narrator saying 'yep' and 'nope'. Probably I would read on.

4. It's Poe, and it's short, so I'd read it, but if I didn't know both those things I'd probably pass.

5. I'd read on, at least to find out what was up with the Rimbauers and their deadly home.

Anonymous said...

1. Oh, yes! I love the language "sneaking glances," "stomped the earth," "jangled and clanged," and "cut all wrong." I already feel a frisson. After peeking at the author, I realize I read this long, long ago and admit with shame that I failed to recognize the opening.
2. Didn't do anything for me, I'd put right back on the shelf.
3. Yes, so succinct, so readable, nice tone. (I didn't recognize because the only thing of his I've ever read is "On Writing.")
4. I recognized the author here, so I'd read on, knowing I was in the hands of an expert who would not disappoint.
5. Nah. I was bored at Dear Reader, gave up by "excuse the pun."

word verification knkfm: kinky FM? kinky farm? kinky fem?

none said...

1. Yes. I have been meaning to read this book for years. Reading the opening just makes me want to read it more than ever. Must get a copy. Lots here to wonder about.

2. No. Just reads like it's going to be very predictable--narrator will see something horrible and of course ignore the instruction not to interfere with the box.

3. No. Nothing here to make me care about any of the characters.

4. I have read this, which leaves me with the privilege of knowing that it gets MUCH better. You wouldn't know it from this, though.

5. Lost me at Dear Reader.

HawkOwl said...

The first three for sure. Not the fourth because the writing is too messy and full of itself, and not the fifth because I don't care for "Dear Reader" works.

Although, glancing at the comments, if I knew 4 was Poe, I'd definitely read it.

Brenda said...

#1 - Nope.

#2 - I'd keep reading.

#3 - One of my favorite books ever. Haven't read it in years and still recognized it within the first 25 words.

#4 - Of course. Love it.

#5 - Um, no thanks.

Anonymous said...

Only #1 is not in first person. Was that intentional? By the way, EE, I like the new pictures to go with the old beginnings.

1. The lightning rod seller piques my interest, but the actual writing doesn't seem to be getting anywhere. I would not keep reading.

2. I thought the over-wrought reaction was pretty funny. I'd keep reading, but I'd stop if it turned out that humour was unintentional.

3. I'd keep reading. The way the death is presented leaves all kinds of questions and has an interesting twist, focusing on the identification of the body by television. The writer has given me some confidence that the book will be unusual.

4. Okay, so it's Poe, but I would close the book. This is all telling, no showing, and it's a pretty tough read.

5. This is again all telling and no showing, not to mention being backstory. At least the sole interesting titbit - the disappearances - shows up quickly. I'd give this one another paragraph to hook my interest before closing the book.

Anonymous said...

1. One of my favorite Bradbury's - love the imagery. I like the wonder of innocent corn-fed young boys about to be rolled into evil against the clear backdrop of the midwest. October Country and Something Wicked This Way Comes - the perfect Halloween companions.

2. I don't recognize it, but anything with a secret box and a secret society and a curious gentleman, especially with prose this dated, has me hooked and I would read on.

3. I recognized Stephen King's Bag of Bones - I stayed up *all night* in the Army reading this book and was no good the following day.

4. Sounds like Poe - and I really love unravelling his slightly archaic prose to discover whatever is genteely rotting underneath.

5. I remember the collaborative TV mini series - called Rose Red - done from this book. I wanted to read the book, but couldn't - at that time - find it. The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer.

Anonymous said...

1. I like the seller of lightning rods, and how the lightning stomps. I'd read on.

2. I'm already riveted by the little thing that looks like a matchbox. How could something terrible come out of that?

3. As braun commented, it starts so normally; death being so much a part of life that all that's required of a bereaved spouse is "yep" or "nope." New England, maybe?

4. I thought it was Poe, too. The old-fashioned style takes some getting used to.

5. I like this a lot. I'd read it.

I don't usually read horror -- too scary. But all of these beginnings were really intriguing.


Kathleen said...

what I like about these beginnings is how distinctive they are.

Anonymous said...

I recognized #1 from the first few words (even though I read it once, nearly 20 years ago), so it must be pretty powerful.

s.w. vaughn said...

Oh! I knew three of these! (1, 3, and 5). Got number one lightning fast (yes, you may groan now).

Can't tell I read horror much. :-)

Macuquinas d' Oro said...

It is amazing how quickly Poe and Lovecraft and Bradbury, each with his own distinctive voice, manages to set the mood of the story. Two sentences in and we know dreadful things are afoot.

Anonymous said...

No, no, yes, no and I dont care that it's Poe, no. I guess that's why I dont read horror.

1) hate the writing style. The author is fond of words and not afraid to use them, alot. Totally lost me at "of a like size and general shape".

2)Oooooh, dont touch the matchbox. Dont worry I wont even read the book. That's just so over the top it might as well have a giant blinking arrow pointing at it.

3) I like the matter of fact tone. I'd give it another page.

4)Never been crazy about Poe. And even if I hadnt suspected it was Poe I still wouldnt read it.

5) Lost me at Dear Reader.

Anonymous said...

1. Not the smoothest opening, is it? If this was all I had to go on, I probably would put it back.

2. Sometimes Gothic horror is just the thing. This kind of opening sure seems dated now, though.

3. Love it. So matter-of-fact... then the hook.

4. Did I mention that I like Gothic horror? I read this when I was a kid and it scared the bejeezus out of me. Can't imagine anybody publishing writing like this nowadays.

5. "Dear Reader," "Excuse the Pun!" Are you kidding me? I might keep reading anyway, but that meta-fic thing is annoying.

Anonymous said...

Fresh thoughts on old openings.

1. The sentence fragment pulled me out of the story for a moment, but basically I liked this opening. Liked the lightning and the "jangle" and something cut wrong. Interesting combination of elements. I'm curious about the boys. I'd keep reading.

2. This has the spooky and odd, set in an attic with a curious object on the table. I wasn't entranced with the style, but I'd keep reading for now.

3. This contrasts the normal day with the cold reality of death, and watching it on a TV monitor. I liked it a lot. yes, I'd keep reading.

4. From the homely narrative and style of this, I'd guess this is 19th century. Reptitious, telling, assurances that it's horror--old style. I'm not sure whether I'd keep reading. If it's truly 19th century, probably yes, but if it's more modern, no.

5. This had a very straight style that I didn't much like, but the name Rose Red and the number of dead bodies found were enough to hook me. Yes, I'd keep reading.

Anonymous said...

1. I had King pegged for this opening(obviously wrong), but I wouldn't read it. It's too...too. I'm just not interested in small town stories, even if they are horror.

2. Lovecraft. RUN AWAY! I have a good vocabulary, but I have no desire to be overwhelmed, taken over, buried under, and annihlated by a preponderence of really tedious wordage that doesn't make me feel any suspense.

3. Sounds more like a CSI episode than a horror story. Either way, I'm not interested.

4. POE!!! YAY!!! Ok. I think the beginning to "The Black Cat" is probably one of Poe's weakest. That, and wall of words is hard for me to read.

5. *holds head in pain* This sounds like it's gonna be bad. I really don't like stories that have that much narrator intrusion in them. I really don't want to be addressed by the narrator, either. Definitely not my favorite style, and I would be off-put by reading this first page.

McKoala said...

1. Yes. Some lovely vocab, some nice pictures in my head and something ominous at the end of the garden...

2. No. Second paragraph is too crammed and too 'we know something that you don't, dear reader'. I did like 'we even avoid looking at it very steadily' though - that nearly pulled me back in!

3. Yes, and I have.

4. Get on with it! Yes, if it's for real, no if it's a modern pastiche.

5. No. The ideas are lost in the boredom of the narration.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVE Something Wicked This Way Comes. I'm still hunting for the DVD of the movie version.
I may have read the book back in high school, but I instantly recognized the opening from the narration of the movie.
Don't recognize #2 but it looks interesting.
I've read a lot of King, but not Bag of Bones.
I recognized Poe's style (loooooong sentences) but not the actual work.
#5 doesn't float my boat.

Anonymous said...

1. Yes
2. A big Yes
3. Mebbe
4. Yes! Have. Will. And again!
5. No

Anonymous said...

#5, Diary of Ellen Rimbauer by Joyce Reardon? Is that a pseudonym? I thought Ridley Pearson wrote that.

I'm so tired of getting rejected and now I'm so tired of being wrong. I am sooooo glad I don't live near a bridge.

I'm trying to come back.

Evil Editor said...

It's a pseudonym of sorts. It's the name of a fake editor (Joyce)of a diary by a fake author (Ellen). Stephen King is in on it too, but Ridley deserves the credit. Apparently Ridley doesn't care, because if you're looking for the book online the easiest way to find it is by searching for Ellen Rimbauer or Joyce Reardon.