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      Major Update to OL (please click to open)   02/09/2016

      Sorry for the inconvenience, but we had to update OL and there have been some serious changes made by IPB. The real bad news is that they had to merge User Names and Display Names. This meant that I had to choose between bad and bad. I opted to keep the log-on information the same, so you can get on OL like you always did, but now your User Name is displayed. If your User Name and Display Name were the same, you will not feel the change. If they were different, you are probably irritated right now. I will figure out how you can change this so you can revert to the Display Name you used before if you like, however this may entail a change in how you log-on. The good news is that OL is now searchable from the very beginning. This means all the old posts from the A-Team in Objectivism (and everybody else) will finally show up when you search for something. I will keep changing this announcement as we adapt to these new changes. It's a pain, I know, but after looking around the backend for a bit, I believe the benefits will far, far outweigh the current irritation. They changed things in a hamhanded way and I don't like that, but I can't do anything about it. Benefit-wise, they actually did a good job, so please bear with us. In addition to this change, many good things are coming over time. You are the reason OL exists and I am sorry you have to go through this. Think of it like birth pangs... (All right, all right, that's forcing it.  ) Michael
jriggenbach

Some Effective Opening Paragraphs

127 posts in this topic

Brackett Omensetter was a wide and happy man. He could

whistle like the cardinal whistles in the deep snow, or whirr

like the sky 'white rising from its cover, or be the lark a

chuckle at the sky. He knew the earth. He put his hands

in water. He smelled the clean fir smell. He listened to

the bees. And he laughed his deep, loud, wide and happy

laugh whenever he could—which was often, long, and joyfully.

There was a man named Lessingham dwelt in an old low house in Wastdale, set in a gray old garden where yew-trees flourished that had seen Vikings in Copeland in their seedling time. Lily and rose and larkspur bloomed in the borders, and begonias with blossoms big as saucers, red and white and pink and lemon-colour, in the beds before the porch. Climbing roses, honeysuckle, clematis, and the scarlet flame-flower scrambled up the walls. Thick woods were on every side without the garden, with a gap north-eastward opening on the desolate lake and the great fells beyond it: Gable rearing his crag-bound head against the sky from behind the straight clean outline of the Screes.

Later that Summer, when Mrs. Penmark looked back and remembered, when she was caught up in despair so deep that she knew there was no way out, no solution whatever for the circumstances that encompassed her, it seemed to her that June seventh, the day of the Fern Grammar School picnic, was the day of her last happiness, for never since then had she known contentment or felt peace.

He doesn't know which of us I am these days, but they know one truth. You must own nothing but yourself. You must make your own life, live your own life and die your own death . . . or else you will die another's.

Edited by Jeff Riggenbach
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Jeff, how about some citations? Like so:

"Jeeves," I said, "may I speak frankly?"

"Certainly, sir."

"What I have to say may wound you."

"Not at all, sir."

"Well, then----"

No--wait. Hold the line a minute. I've gone off the rails.

I don't know if you have had the same experience, but the snag I always come up against when I'm telling a story is this dashed difficult problem

of where to begin it. It's a thing you don't want to go wrong over, because one false step and you're sunk. I mean, if you fool about too

long at the start, trying to establish atmosphere, as they call it, and all that sort of rot, you fail to grip and the customers walk out on you.

Get off the mark, on the other hand, like a scalded cat, and your public is at a loss. It simply raises its eyebrows, and can't make out what

you're talking about.

And in opening my report of the complex case of Gussie Fink-Nottle, Madeline Bassett, my Cousin Angela, my Aunt Dahlia, my Uncle Thomas,

young Tuppy Glossop and the cook, Anatole, with the above spot of dialogue, I see that I have made the second of these two floaters.

I shall have to hark back a bit. And taking it for all in all and weighing this against that, I suppose the affair may be said to have had

its inception, if inception is the word I want, with that visit of mine to Cannes. If I hadn't gone to Cannes, I shouldn't have met the Bassett

or bought that white mess jacket, and Angela wouldn't have met her shark, and Aunt Dahlia wouldn't have played baccarat.

Yes, most decidedly, Cannes was the _point d'appui._

Right ho, then. Let me marshal my facts.

P.G. Wodehouse, Right Ho, Jeeves

...

A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but

there is nothing to compare it to now.

It is too late. The Evacuation still proceeds, but it’s all theatre. There are

no lights inside the cars. No light anywhere. Above him lift girders old as an

iron queen, and glass somewhere far above that would let the light of day

through. But it’s night. He’s afraid of the way the glass will fall—soon—it will

be a spectacle: the fall of a crystal palace. But coming down in total blackout,

without one glint of light, only great invisible crashing.

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

Edited by Ninth Doctor
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Brackett Omensetter was a wide and happy man. He could

whistle like the cardinal whistles in the deep snow, or whirr

like the sky 'white rising from its cover, or be the lark a

chuckle at the sky. He knew the earth. He put his hands

in water. He smelled the clean fir smell. He listened to

the bees. And he laughed his deep, loud, wide and happy

laugh whenever he could—which was often, long, and joyfully.

There was a man named Lessingham dwelt in an old low house in Wastdale, set in a gray old garden where yew-trees flourished that had seen Vikings in Copeland in their seedling time. Lily and rose and larkspur bloomed in the borders, and begonias with blossoms big as saucers, red and white and pink and lemon-colour, in the beds before the porch. Climbing roses, honeysuckle, clematis, and the scarlet flame-flower scrambled up the walls. Thick woods were on every side without the garden, with a gap north-eastward opening on the desolate lake and the great fells beyond it: Gable rearing his crag-bound head against the sky from behind the straight clean outline of the Screes.

Later that Summer, when Mrs. Penmark looked back and remembered, when she was caught up in despair so deep that she knew there was no way out, no solution whatever for the circumstances that encompassed her, it seemed to her that June seventh, the day of the Fern Grammar, School picnic, was the day of her last happiness, for never since then had she known contentment or felt peace.

He doesn't know which of us I am these days, but they know one truth. You must own nothing but yourself. You must make your own life, live your own life and die your own death . . . or else you will die another's.

JR,

Would you explain WHY exactly you personally consider these opening paragraphs as "effective"? Effective in respect to what?

The "effect" of the last one one me was that it made me laugh at the pomposity. All those "you musts". :rolleyes:

Another question: Why don't you provide the source of the quotes? While those quotes can easily be sourced via google, you must have had a motive for witholding them. What is your motive?

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My favorite opening line (and paragraph) from an essay is from George Orwell's "England, Your England" (1940):

"As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me."

Ghs

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My favorite opening line (and paragraph) from an essay is from George Orwell's "England, Your England" (1940):

"As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me."

Ghs

George:

Powerful line, and unknown to me up until now. Thank you. I will use it repeatedly when I speak publicly this extremely critical year in America's life.

Ms. Xray:

A quick question, since you stated:

"The 'effect' of the last one on[sic] me was that it made me laugh at the pomposity. All those 'you musts'." :rolleyes:

Would that be like a statement, "Your values must be subjectively chosen?" :rolleyes:

peace_e0.gif

Adam

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My favorite opening line (and paragraph) from an essay is from George Orwell's "England, Your England" (1940):

"As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me."

Ghs

George:

Powerful line, and unknown to me up until now. Thank you. I will use it repeatedly when I speak publicly this extremely critical year in America's life.

Adam,

Here is more of the Orwell passage from "England, Your England" (originally published as part of The Lion and the Unicorn):

"As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.

"They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are only doing their duty, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep any worse for it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil."

A powerful passage, indeed. Orwell is my favorite English essayist.

Ghs

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Another one from Orwell:

It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World. Roast beef and Yorkshire, or roast pork and apple sauce, followed up by suet pudding and driven home, as it were, by a cup of mahogany-brown tea, have put you in just the right mood. Your pipe is drawing sweetly, the sofa cushions are soft underneath you, the fire is well alight, the air is warm and stagnant. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about?

Naturally about a murder.

This is the beginning of his essay Decline of the English Murder, which is of course also a great title.

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Another one from Orwell:

It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World. Roast beef and Yorkshire, or roast pork and apple sauce, followed up by suet pudding and driven home, as it were, by a cup of mahogany-brown tea, have put you in just the right mood. Your pipe is drawing sweetly, the sofa cushions are soft underneath you, the fire is well alight, the air is warm and stagnant. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about?

Naturally about a murder.

This is the beginning of his essay Decline of the English Murder, which is of course also a great title.

This reminds me a little of the great line from Thomas De Quincey's On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts:

"If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he next comes to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination."”

Ghs

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Another one from Orwell:

It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World. Roast beef and Yorkshire, or roast pork and apple sauce, followed up by suet pudding and driven home, as it were, by a cup of mahogany-brown tea, have put you in just the right mood. Your pipe is drawing sweetly, the sofa cushions are soft underneath you, the fire is well alight, the air is warm and stagnant. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about?

Naturally about a murder.

This is the beginning of his essay Decline of the English Murder, which is of course also a great title.

This reminds me a little of the great line from Thomas De Quincey's On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts:

"If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he next comes to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.""

Ghs

George and DG:

Surely you must like Ambrose Bierce...

FREEDOM, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly half dozen of restraint's infinite multitude of methods. A political condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to find a living specimen of either. Freedom, as every schoolboy knows,

Once shrieked as Kosciusko fell;

On every wind, indeed, that blows

I hear her yell.

She screams whenever monarchs meet,

And parliaments as well,

To bind the chains about her feet

And toll her knell.

And when the sovereign people cast

The votes they cannot spell,

Upon the pestilential blast

Her clamors swell.

For all to whom the power's given

To sway or to compel,

Among themselves apportion Heaven

And give her Hell.

Blary O'Gary

Adam

Edited by Selene
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Here's one:

"Howard Roark laughed."

Next time you surely come up with "Who is John Galt?".

Petrograd smelt of carbolic acid.

There, that narrows the field.

...

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend

of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to

Howth Castle and Environs.

James Joyce, Finnegan's Wake

Now there's the height of pretension. Though it's a pretty good warning of what's to come.

...

That was when I saw the Pendulum.

The sphere, hanging from a long wire set into the ceiling of the choir, swayed back and forth with isochronal majesty.

Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum

That's more like it.

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George finished whispering the lullaby to his daughter and gently placed the receiver back into its cradle. His eyes moved from the telephone to the chaos of papers scattered about his desk. It would be another late night at work.

How is this?

I'm not really sure what makes a good intro paragraph, but my thoughts are to develop a scene with the least background description possible. The present situation speaks all we need to feel.

Chris

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Surely you must like Ambrose Bierce...

Yes, I like Bierce. And don't call me Shirley.

Ghs

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Surely you must like Ambrose Bierce...

Yes, I like Bierce. And don't call me Shirley.

Ghs

George:

tiphat.gif

Lol.

And happy birthday ...

party-smiley-011.gif

party-smiley-020.gif

party-smiley-021.gif

party-smiley-022.gif

party-smiley-023.gif

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Nice thread - lots of striking openings! Once I look up / google to find some of the writers, I'll probably add them to my TBE list.

> Jeff, how about some citations? [ND]

> Would you explain WHY exactly you personally consider these opening paragraphs as "effective"? Effective in respect to what? [Xray]

I think the lead post is fine just the way it is. The 'teaser', suspense aspect makes you focus just on the words. Then makes you stop and think: What does this mean, who could it be, is it fiction or non-fiction? And so on. Before you go any further or make any dismissive prejudgments based on what you know (or think you know!) about a famous writer or thinker.

Nice to start with a puzzle sometimes, not have everything spelled out for you. Gets your brain up out of the couch. Makes you dust the lint, beer, and stale nachos off it.

Edited by Philip Coates
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What about:

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Nice to start with a puzzle sometimes, not have everything spelled out for you. Gets your brain up out of the couch. Makes you dust the lint, beer, and stale nachos off it.

You have to dust beer off yourself Phil? :unsure:

Anyway, why just beginnings, how about endings, or should that be a separate thread?

...

"It's time to start," said Genghis Cohen, offering his arm. The men inside the auction room wore black mohair and had pale, cruel faces. They watched her come in, trying each to conceal his thoughts. Loren Passerine, on his podium, hovered like a puppet-master, his eyes bright, his smile practiced and relentless. He stared at her, smiling, as if saying, I'm surprised you actually came. Oedipa sat alone, toward the back of the room, looking at the napes of necks, trying to guess which one was her target, her enemy, perhaps her proof. An assistant closed the heavy door on the lobby windows and the sun. She heard a lock snap shut; the sound echoed a moment. Passerine spread his arms in a gesture that seemed to belong to the priesthood of some remote culture; perhaps to a descending angel. The auctioneer cleared his throat. Oedipa settled back, to await the crying of lot 49.

...

I'm not telling, heh-heh.

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This isn't an opening paragraph, but it is certainly one of most interesting I have ever read. From Robert Burton's "The Anatomy of Melancholy" (1621).

Every lover admires his mistress, though she be very deformed of herself, ill-favoured, wrinkled, pimpled, pale, red, yellow, tanned, tallow-faced, have a swollen juggler's platter face, or a thin, lean, chitty face, have clouds in her face, be crooked, dry, bald, goggle-eyed, blear-eyed, or with staring eyes, she looks like a squissed cat, hold her head still awry, heavy, dull, hollow-eyed, black or yellow about the eyes, or squint-eyed, sparrow-mouthed, Persian hook-nosed, have a sharp fox nose, a red nose, China flat, great nose, nare simo patuloque, a nose like a promontory, gubber-tushed, rotten teeth, black, uneven, brown teeth, beetle browed, a witch's beard, her breath stink all over the room, her nose drop winter and summer, with a Bavarian poke under her chin, a sharp chin, lave eared, with a long crane's neck, which stands awry too, pendulis mammis, “her dugs like two double jugs,” or else no dugs, in that other extreme, bloody fallen fingers, she have filthy, long unpared nails, scabbed hands or wrists, a tanned skin, a rotten carcass, crooked back, she stoops, is lame, splay-footed, “as slender in the middle as a cow in the waist,” gouty legs, her ankles hang over her shoes, her feet stink, she breed lice, a mere changeling, a very monster, an oaf imperfect, her whole complexion savours, a harsh voice, incondite gesture, vile gait, a vast virago, or an ugly tit, a slug, a fat fustilugs, a truss, a long lean rawbone, a skeleton, a sneaker (si qua latent meliora puta), and to thy judgment looks like a merd in a lantern, whom thou couldst not fancy for a world, but hatest, loathest, and wouldst have spit in her face, or blow thy nose in her bosom, remedium amoris to another man, a dowdy, a slut, a scold, a nasty, rank, rammy, filthy, beastly quean, dishonest peradventure, obscene, base, beggarly, rude, foolish, untaught, peevish, Irus' daughter, Thersites' sister, Grobians' scholar, if he love her once, he admires her for all this, he takes no notice of any such errors, or imperfections of body or mind, Ipsa haec—delectant, veluti Balbinum Polypus Agnae,; he had rather have her than any woman in the world. If he were a king, she alone should be his queen, his empress. O that he had but the wealth and treasure of both the Indies to endow her with, a carrack of diamonds, a chain of pearl, a cascanet of jewels, (a pair of calfskin gloves of four-pence a pair were fitter), or some such toy, to send her for a token, she should have it with all his heart; he would spend myriads of crowns for her sake. Venus herself, Panthea, Cleopatra, Tarquin's Tanaquil, Herod's Mariamne, or Mary of Burgundy, if she were alive, would not match her.

Ghs

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Uh, George: what were you smoking?

--Brant

I first read The Anatomy of Melancholy over 20 years ago, and I can't remember what I was smoking then.

The full title is: The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up

Burton was a physician, and parts of his famous book are written in a stream-of-consciousness style. It is an odd book, even by seventeenth-century standards, but it is also very insightful at times, psychologically speaking.

From the Wiki article at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Anatomy_of_Melancholy

"On its surface, the book is a medical textbook in which Burton applies his large and varied learning in the scholastic manner to the subject of melancholia (which includes what is now termed clinical depression).

"Though presented as a medical text, The Anatomy of Melancholy is as much a sui generis work of literature as it is a scientific or philosophical text, and Burton addresses far more than his stated subject. In fact, the Anatomy uses melancholy as the lens through which all human emotion and thought may be scrutinized, and virtually the entire contents of a 17th-century library are marshalled into service of this goal."

A full text of The Anatomy of Melancholy can be found at:

http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/10800

It's a very long book.

Ghs

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No this is not an OL thread, but an actual opening of a play.

Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads.

Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads.

Heads.

Bet?

Heads I win.

Again...

Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads.

Whoops!

It must be indicative of something besides the redistribution of wealth.

Heads.

A weaker man might be moved to re-examine his faith, for nothing else at least

in the law of probability...Heads.

Consider. One, probability is a factor which operates within natural forces.

Two, probability is not operating as a factor.

Three, we are now held within um...sub or supernatural forces.

Discuss! What?

Look at it this way.

If six monkeys...

If six monkeys...

The law of averages, if I have got this right means...

that if six monkeys were thrown up in the air long enough...

they would land on their tails about as often as they would

land on their...Heads, getting a bit of a bore, isn't it?

A bore? Well...What about the suspense?

What suspense? It must be the law of diminishing returns.

I still spell about to be broken.

Well, it was an even chance.

Seventy eight in a row. A new record, I imagine.

Is that what you imagine? A new record?

No questions? Not a flicker of doubt?

I could be wrong. No fear?

Fear? Fear!

Seventy nine.

I think I have it.

Time has stopped dead.

Adam

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That book was in my Father's library but I never read it. I've still got it, in a box in the shed, I'm sure.

Dad's great passion, at least as a young man, was reading. He read all the classics. An anti-Semitic power-lusting American nationalist active in the America First movement, he was a would-be American Hitler who ruined his IQ genius brain with alcohol and bullshit so I never knew him in his prime or hardly as a boy for he and Mom got a divorce. He took her virginity at Antioch and from that came my sister Joan, now deceased, marriage and three more. He and Mom came to Tucson because my other sister Patricia, also deceased, had bad lungs from a URI. He took copies of his defunct newsletter to the managing editor of The Arizona Daily Star who looked them over and said take these home and come to work Monday morning (as a reporter). Picture this: Dad at Madison Square Garden giving an anti-war, anti-Roosevelt speech 1940-41 and his Father-In-Law Irving Brant in tight with the President and the New Deal. He was a very good reporter, but got fired right after the war for drinking. A real bad drunk. He assaulted a cop with his cane and Mom got word it would be best if he left town and she got him out and he went back to NYC.

My parents: one almost a communist and the other almost a Nazi, circa 70 years ago. She's 95 and counting and I can tell she's about ready to go to bed. (I have to say she's anti-Stalin and anti-Putin but probably still thinks too highly of Lenin. She's also anti-Obama: "The worst President we've ever had." "He's ruining the country." She's anti-abortion in spite of being a typical liberal academic. When she was pregnant with her first she went to a hotel in Harlem where she joined other young pregnant ladies who exercised all night trying to induce an abortion and she never forgave herself for the fetus became her most loved child).

During WWI when Dad was a boy, my great-grandfather offered my grandfather $10,000 if he would teach Dad German. I only heard this story once and don't know if it is true. Multiply by 50 for today's value. Granddad refused. His reasoning was that anti-German sentiment was so high he wanted Dad to completely assimilate into being an American. He also physically beat my Dad. Granddad was an elder/minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church and Dad was always challenging him reason vs faith. Dad went to the library of Congress as a teenager and found out that Sister White's writings had been seriously altered and that she was a plagiarist too boot.

So, his Dad to my Dad: "If you take away my faith, I won't have anything."

My Father wasn't just an IQ genius, for a brief period in time he was also a creative one. He wrote a series of articles for the Antioch College mag. "The Blaze" called "The Cat Philosophies" on or about the early 1930s which are hard to read because it is like reading about the Holocaust before it happened. He was not thinking about Jews or people killing people but cats killing cats and crematoria too. Industrialized murder, if you will. I've got it somewhere, but it's a hard, eerie slog.

Dad thought of himself as a Nietzschean superman type and not the kind of guy who had many friends. You can read about him in a best selling book published during the war called "Under Cover." Dad told me the quotes were all wrong but that the author was good at getting the characters right--and presumably himself. When he drank his personality changed from acceptable to disgusting-obnoxious. I could always tell when he was so soused he was about to pass out/go asleep, but I'll spare you all that.

He had a stroke when he was 67 and had to spend the last 16 years of his life cold sober because I wouldn't buy him any booze altho he asked me to one time: I said, "If I say yes once I'll have to say no a thousand times."

I think if Ayn Rand had met my Father in the early 1930s she would have gone nuts over him: tall, thin, Nordic good looks, brains coming out of his ears, arrogant, dynamic, but all he really amounted to was an attenuated Peter Keating with a political orientation. It was a good thing she didn't for she was still growing and evolving into a much better person for that crap.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
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The telephone bell was ringing wildly, but without result, since there was no-one in the room except the corpse.--

Charles Williams, War in Heaven.

And, although I don't have a copy in front of me to give you the full text, the opening of Jane Austen's Persuasion.

Jeffrey S.

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How about a great closing line?

"It was easy."

--Brant

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