We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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Friday evening question

What is your favourite passage from a novel?

I think mine is that superbly-written scene in Moonraker when Ian Fleming describes how Bond deals out a sequence of cards that in Bridge is known as a Yarborough and as a result, takes the villain Drax to the cleaners. I never thought that a writer could make the game of Bridge sound exciting, but Fleming achieved it.

For second place in this quiz, I think I have to go for the scene in Scoop when William Boot, the hapless correspondent, files his first despatch for the Daily Beast. I still grin whenever I think about it.

59 comments to Friday evening question

  • I’m not sure it is quite the most memorable but right up there is the Dinner Party scene in Lois Bujold’s “A Civil Campaign”

    Another would be the description of the Great Trunk Road near the start of Kim.

  • David Roberts

    The description of the Great Kitchen near the beginning of Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake. I am unable to finish this book, never mind the other two, as I keep having to read and reread the descriptive passages.

  • I’m not sure exactly what passage I’d choose, but it would almost certainly come from the pages of a Raymond Chandler short story. The only problem I have is which one to choose. Probably the scene at the beginning of The Big Sleep when Philip Marlowe first arrives at the Sternwood mansion and encounters the butler.

  • K

    Frank Norris in McTeague.

    Near the end Norris foretells McTeagues end; the desert, bleak and indifferent, is fate.

    “An hour passed. Then two. The stars winked out, and the dawn whitened. The air became warmer. The whole east, clean of clouds, flamed opalescent from horizon to zenith, crimson at the base, where the earth blackened against it; at the top fading from pink to pale yellow, to green, to light blue, to the turquoise iridescence of the desert sky. The long, thin shadows of the early hours drew backward like receding serpents, then suddenly the sun looked over the shoulder of the world, and it was day.”

  • Kevin B

    Just off the top of my head I thought of the scene in Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! where the good burhers of Ankh Morpork are having dinner with the Dragon.

    IMHO this is his best, and best political, book

  • Kevin B

    PIMF That should, of course, have been the ‘good burghers’, but they were certainly anxious about ending up as the ‘good burgers’.

  • P.M.Boylan

    I enjoy the discussion between Elizabeth Bennett and Lady Catherine de Bourgh near the end of Pride and Prejudice, because it’s an impressive sparring match of a conversation. I also enjoy the part of Meg Whalen Turner’s The King of Attolia when the young king, despised by his staff, turns the tables on them and shows how little he cares what they do. It turns all the reader’s assumptions upside down in a massive surprise.

  • Nick M

    The Big Sleep is actually a novel, not a short. I love Chandler. There is a brilliant passage (I forget in which story) where Marlowe has been cold-cocked with a bottle of gin. If anyone can enlighten me, it would be appreciated. There is also an incredible virtuoso piece in which, while driving along Marlowe bemoans the corruption and decadence of LA. Again, I can’t give the reference.

    Neither can I give the reference to Marlowe’s best line:

    “She was a blonde, the kind of blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window”.

    There are some incredible passages in “Three Men in a boat”. I also love Borges’ lists, especially the one in “The Aleph”.

  • Sam Duncan

    No contest. The first page of PG Wodehouse’s Summer Lightning, in the original Herbert Jenkins edition. Sorry to sound so pretentious about a comic novel, but subsequent editions almost certainly spoil the exquisite timing by overlapping the page, or bringing the start of the second one forward. I don’t know whether that timing was intentional or not (it may well have been: Wodehouse is known to have written in pages, pinning each one to his wall and moving it further up as he “polished” it – once a page reached the dado, it was finished – and by 1929 he would certainly have had a good idea of how many lines Jenkins printed per page), but either way, it’s the most perfect first page I’ve ever read.

    Yes, Gussie Fink-Nottle presenting the prizes at Market Snodsbury Grammar School is funnier. The preface to Summer Lightning is funnier, but that single page, to me, represents a master at work.

    If you have a different edition, it’s everything up to

    At this moment, the laurel bush, which had hitherto not spoken, said “Psst!”

    And if you’ve never read it, well, look at that line. I mean, come on

  • “And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the power in Barad-Dur was shaken and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash. Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him. For he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.

    “From all his policies and webs of fear and treachery, from all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free; and throughout his realm a tremor ran, and his captains suddenly steerless, bereft of will, wavered and despaired. For they were forgotten. The whole mind and purpose of the Power that wielded them was now bent with overwhelming force upon the Mountain.”

    – J. R. R. tolkien, The Return of the King

  • Kulibar Tree

    I would nominate any of several key scenes in Jack Vance’s Star King – this was a master stylist writing at the peak of his powers. I think my favourite scene is that between Kerth Gerson, Pallis Atwrode and Scop Suthiro the Master Venefice, in the esplanade on Avente, Alphanor.


  • Richard Garner

    I love the opening sentence of HG Well’s The War of The Worlds. I don’t have it on hand to quote it, but it is marvelous. I remember learning about writing stories and articles and being told to keep the first sentence short and snappy. Well’s first sentence in his book is well over fifty words long!

  • Kulibar tree

    Just to have another bite at the cherry, I’d also like to nominate this line from Jack Vance’s short story Guyal of Sfere in The Dying Earth series) as being one of the greatest in the English – or any otrher – language:

    ‘I respond to three questions,’ stated the auger. ‘For the twenty terces I phrase the answer in clear and actionable language; for ten I use the language of cant, which occasionally admits of ambiguity; for five, I speak a parable which you must interpret as you will; and for one terce, I babble in an unknown tongue.’


  • WalterBoswell

    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, second and third paragraph:

    Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.

    Especially this line:
    You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

  • Ham

    The page that precedes this:

    “That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.
    “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

  • P. M. Boylan: definitely Elizabeth vs Lady Catherine. Also, Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s first dance together. There, two, what matters, of course, is the conversation. And last, but not the least, Elizabeth turning down Darcy’s marriage proposal. Western civilization at its finest.

    “And still Madame Defarge, pursuing her way along the streets, came nearer and nearer.” This, of course, is from the next to last chapter in “Tale of Two Cities”. I like this chapter just because it is so cinematic, if it was written a century later, one could be certain that Dickens was aiming for a Hollywood deal. I keep telling myself to try and watch at least one of the numerous film versions, just to see what they made of this chapter.

  • K is on to something . . . ‘McTeague’ is one of the greatest novels ever written, and one could pick out more or less any passage at random and quote it. Norris was truly an amazing prose stylist. It’s well worth reading for anyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure.

  • Chris Harper (Counting Cats)

    “They was cruel enough to feed him up in the temple, because they said he was more of a god than old Daniel that was a man. Then they turned him out on the snow, and told him to go home, and Peachey came home in about a year, begging along the roads quite safe; for Daniel Dravot he walked before and said:— ‘Come along, Peachey. It’s a big thing we’re doing.’ The mountains they danced at night, and the mountains they tried to fall on Peachey’s head, but Dan he held up his hand, and Peachey came along bent double. He never let go of Dan’s hand, and he never let go of Dan’s head. They gave it to him as a present in the temple, to remind him not to come again, and though the crown was pure gold, and Peachey was starving, never would Peachey sell the same. You knew Dravot, sir! You knew Right Worshipful Brother Dravot! Look at him now!”

    What’s not to adore?

  • RAB

    Much as I have already stated in previous threads
    I find lists infuriating!!
    There is so much great stuff out there!
    Well you want to bung your 2ps worth in like everybody else- Doncha?
    Mirror Mirror on the wall
    Who is the coolest of them all??

    The first page of Ken Kesey’s
    Sometimes a Great Notion.
    He who wrote Cuckoo’s Nest.
    This describes an Oregon mountain from tip to river. As your eye moves down the page, so your imagination moves down the mountain.
    A very Libertarian story in fact, about a family of anti-union loggers.

  • bob

    The last sentence of Josef Roth’s “The Emperor’s Tomb”: ‘Where am I now to go, I, a Trotta?”. It’s a dirge for a now deceased middle European civilization that allowed itself to decay and die. I always picture Roth, a Galician jew, in exile in Paris drunk in his sordid bed-sit writing these lines and realizing the enormity of what his contemporaries’ cowardice and apathy allowed to spawn.

    Or the last page of Hemingwy’s “A well-lighted Place”.

  • K

    Thanks Steve: you echo my sentiments about both the book and Norris.

    I sometimes recommend Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. His description of a hangover is about 200 words.

    I remember (roughly) this phrase….

    ‘a small rodent had defecated in his mouth…..

  • John Caccese

    I’d like to go back to Ian Fleming for a moment.

    The opening act of MOONRAKER takes 66 pages in my paperback edition, and I often re-read them for the vivid descriptions of the Blades club, as well as for 007 and M’s epic bridge battle against Sir Hugo Drax and his partner, Meyer.

    There’s a wonderful confrontation at the end of the bridge game, where Fleming writes:

    “Then he spoke. “That’s all Drax,” he said quietly, and sat slowly back in his chair.
    “Drax’s first reaction was to lurch forward and tear Meyer’s cards out of his hand. He faced them on the table, scrabbling feverishly among them for a possible winner.
    Then he flung them back across the baize.
    His face was dead white, but his eyes blazed redly at Bond. Suddenly he raised one clenched fist and crashed it on the table among the pile of impotent aces and kings and queens in front of him.
    Very low, he spat the words at Bond. “You’re a che…”
    “That’s enough, Drax.” Basildon’s voice came across the table like a whiplash. “None of that talk here. I’ve been watching the whole game. Settle up. If you’ve got any complaints,k put them in writing to the committee.”
    Drax got slowly to his feet. He stood away from his chair and ran a hand through his wet red hair. The colour came slowly back into his face and with it an expression of cunning. He glanced down at Bond and there was in his good eye a contemptuous triumph which Bond found curiously disturbing.
    He turned to the table. “Good night, gentlemen,” he said, looking at each of them with the same oddly scornful expression. “I owe about L15,000. I will accept Meyer’s addition.”
    He leant forward and picked up his cigarette-case lighter.
    The he looked again at Bond and spoke very quietly, the red moustache lifting slowly from the splayed upper teeth.
    “I should spend the money quickly, Commander Bond,” he said.
    Then he turned away from the table and walked swiftly out of the room.

    Great stuff.

  • I read all sorts of books over and over.
    Then on a beach, near Netanya in Israel I read this:

    “Howard Roark laughed.”

    That was in 1984. I haven’t stopped laughing along since.

    BTW, anybody catch BBC24 ‘StraightTalk’? They were interviewing, quite well, a famous American Libertarian.

  • Jim

    I admire well-written historical novels, such as the Hornblowers; the scene in The Happy Return where Lady Barbara enters his life in a bum-boat, whose crew feeling themselves short-changed, they put-up a squabble at the gang-way until one of the deckhands threatens to toss a round-shot down into it, caught me flat-footed when I first read it and brings me back again and again. And Hornblower’s dissatisfied contemplation of Nonsuch at the opening of A Ship of the Line, and the lower-deck lascivities confronting Bush.

    The Flashman Papers do the same thing to me – grand, sprawling novels with oceans of intimate detail surrounding their protagonist, a thoroughgoing villain and utter cad. I find them tiring in their intensity, but what a ride!

  • Ed Snack

    Pedantry is in, but in Moonraker, Drax is not dealt a “yarborough”, which is a hand with nothing above a nine. To the contrary, Drax’s hand was a “rockcrusher”, if I recall correctly, 3 aces, 3 kings, and possibly 2 queens, something like that. That was the point, Bond immediately bids 7 Clubs, which Drax doubles, and Bond redoubles.

    We used to call such setups “mississippi” hands, as you were being taken for a ride “up and down the river”. Still one the best bits of Bond, though I did like the message attached to the CIA agent Felix Leitner in “Live and Let Die”, after he had been fed to a shark, to wit “He disagreed with something that ate him”.

    Other notables, Patrick Campbell’s (the humourist) description of an episode in a library basement where a light bulb bounces off his forehead with a sharp “ponk” had me laughing for days. Sadly I no longer have the collection of his writings.

  • Bessie

    I’ve long been rather fond of the last few pages of Chapter 7 of Patrick O’Brian’s “Desolation Island”.

    A good starting point would be “They cast loose the guns,” on p.221 (2003 paperback). “Leaning over the rail,” on p.219, would also do.

  • Pietr: I used to live in Netanya 30 years ago:-)

  • Nostalgic

    “I mind as if it were yesterday….”

  • JQ

    Nick M, the passage where Marlowe gets cold cocked with a bottle of gin is from The Lady in the Lake.

    I think I know the other piece you mentioned, having looked back at my copy of The Little Sister.

    A favourite of mine is also from The Little Sister, but a different part. Marlowe is (again) driving, being profoundly cynical about the job he’s on, California, movie stars, everything really. It reads like a stream of consciousness, with repetition of “You’re not human tonight.” I am absolutely incapable of doing it justice.

    Chandler’s Marlowe series has to be one of my all time favourites, though Pratchett’s Discworld runs it close in a completely different way.

  • Julian Taylor

    Ham got there before me, but I would like to set out the entire paragraph:

    There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
    “That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he [Yossarian] observed.
    “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

  • “Keith is not an auspicious name-start” Said Malicia, “It doesn’t hint of mystery, it only hints of Keith.”

    From The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, By Terry Pratchett. I only like it because it’s so sadly true. (I’m a Keith BTW, if you hadn’t already guessed)

  • Mac

    “If he had wanted to live, he would have died.”

    Thus starts one of the best and most interesting novels of the 20th Century, Silverlock, by John Myers Myers.

  • Israel was my temporary refuge from life in Britain, and Netanya was my temporary refuge from life in Israel.
    That cove on the South beach was deserted in May, and I found The Fountainhead in a bookstore, an anniversary edition with a cover painted by Frank O’Connor(Man Also Rises), unavailable in Britain.
    It cost $6.50 US,(this was during the big inflation).
    Hey Alisa, did you ever go to the cafes and have a Mocha with whipped cream? I couldn’t really afford it, but once a week on my day off I’d go down on the bus.
    After I read the book I turned outward again.
    But with thoughtfulness.

  • Jack Olson

    At the end of “All The King’s Men”, Robert Penn Warren’s protagonist, Jack Burden, has seen the rise and finally the assassination of the central character, demagogue Willie Stark. Throughout the previous hundreds of pages, Burden has watched Stark’s ruthless power politics in the name of populism, a roman a clef on Huey Long.

    Thinking of all the good and evil things Stark did, Burden muses on the Theory of Historical Costs, the idea that all change, even a change for the better, necessarily involves some loss. Meanwhile, Burden’s God-obsessed stepfather, in failing health, is writing about the fact that God foresaw the fall of man when He created Adam. Yet, God considered it best to create beings capable of conscious choices even when He knew that some of those choices will be evil.

    The novel closes at this intersection of analogous conclusions of politics, history and theology, the idea that life and the world are inherently admixtures of good and evil. Jack Burden attends Stark’s funeral, plans his future career, marries his sweetheart, closes his book, leaves his ancestral home, and consigns the world he knows to “the awful responsibility of time.”

  • He was a great entertainer, but going insane. The pathologic element could be missed only by those who were laughing too hard to look. Humboldt, that grand erratic handsome person with his wide blond face, that charming, fluent, deeply worried man to whom I was so attached, passionately lived out the theme of Success. Naturally he died a Failure. What else can result from the capitalization of such nouns?

    — from Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow

  • Novus

    While I think London Fields is overall the stronger book, I’m going to go for the scene in Martin Amis’ Money in which John Self visits the star of his movie, Lorne Guyland, for a script consultation. Guyland is to play Gary, a thinly-veiled version of Self’s father Barry, a weak-willed, yobbish pub landlord, in a story about missing drug money, yet such is Guyland’s narcissism that over the course of the interview he entirely rewrites the film so that his character gets to be, as the saying goes, handsome, clever and rich. He begins, “I see this Garfield as a man of some considerable culture,” going on to envision his houses in Tuscany, the Dordogne and Berkeley Square, his art galleries, his numerous women, etc., and eventually referring to him as Lord Garfield; the meeting concludes with Guyland, in a moment apparently inspired by Kirk Douglas, shrugging his robe to the ground and asking Self, “Is this the body of an old man?”

    It’s inch-perfect, black-hearted satire, and if it weren’t some four or five pages long I’d type it all out right now.

  • Pietr: at that time I could not afford it, either:-)

    How long have you stayed in Israel?

  • anonymous coward

    I read all sorts of books over and over.
    Then on a beach, near Netanya in Israel I read this:

    “Howard Roark laughed.”

    That was in 1984.

    I think that was in The Fountainhead, not 1984.

  • zeno

    If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.

  • The Big Sleep is actually a novel, not a short.

    Yes, you’re right. Glad there are others who nominated Chandler though. 🙂

  • Sunfish

    In Edward Abbey’s “The Fool’s Progress,” the opening scene spoke to me for some reason. The protagonist (probably Abbey himself) has a fight with his wife, who then leaves. His means of managing near-suicidal despondency is to empty a gun into the refrigerator and bake a loaf of bread.

    Also, in his “The Brave Cowboy,” there’s a scene where the cowboy is accosted by some cops (in New Mexico, in the 1950’s.) When they give hm a hard time about not carrying ID, he responds with “What do I need ID for? I already know who I am.”

    And there was something from something from Tom Robbins, but I can’t think of it offhand.

  • Chris Harper (Counting Cats)

    Anyone who has once been kipled will love Kipling all life long.

    My quote above was from “The Man Who Would Be King”

    For far too many people today their only exposure is via that dross from Disney.

  • Chris Harper (Counting Cats)

    Never praise a sister to a sister, in the hope of your compliments reaching the proper ears, and so preparing the way for you later on. Sisters are women first and sisters afterwards; and you will find that you do yourself harm.

    The Colonel’s lady and Judy O’Grady
    are sisters under the skin.

    And he understood women too.

    Makes him a better man than I am, Rudyard K.

  • Chris Harper (Counting Cats)

    Sorry, mistyped –

    the Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady
    Are sisters under their skins

  • Jim

    I ran-across an interesting comedian this weenend, Marriott Edgar, who wrote many of Stanley Holloway’s Ramsbottom / Old Sam poems. One image delights:

    “And a stroke of the pen took ’em off to the Tower,
    Where a stroke of the axe did the rest.”

  • Chris Harper (Counting Cats)

    Small Gods – no single passage, but the concept of the Prophet wandering in the wilderness, bringing enlightenment to his god.

    Pratchett reverses our preconceptions and confounds our expectations.

  • ian

    I endorse the idea of Kim – the opening passage is also good.

    I’m afraid Ian Fleming leaves me cold.

    As for Terry Pratchett, had he been writing in any other genre, he would have won the Booker by now. His ability to distill profound scientific or philosophical questions into concise one liners is unsurpassed.

  • Michiganny

    Anthony Powell’s A Dance To The Music Of Time series opens with an introduction of Widmerpool (What a name!) as a boy emerging from the mist running, like some primordial creature. Twelve novels later, now Lord Widmerpool is found naked and collapsed, having died thinking he has outrun everybody else in life.

    Powell’s ability to develop this character’s self-delusion over fifty years and 1,100 pages is beyond me, but it is part of the magic that makes this work a jewel.

  • Alisa, I was there from December 83 to April 84 and again from June 89 to February 90.
    In 84 when I got back from Israel I dropped out and stayed dropped out until 1994.
    Interesting times.
    It was impressive when I was in the Golan to see exactly what the Syrian positions had been like; it took guts to charge them and carry off a ground victory in 67.
    One day I sat under an Olive tree growing on the plateau, and actually got burned by a Khamsin coming off the Syrian Desert to the East.
    I suppose that is what the Arabic headgear was for originally, including the Burqa.
    I still remember my dog, she was an Alsatian stray near the coast highway, and we adopted each other.

    Interesting what was said about Hornblower; I read Alexander Kent when I was a kid, and it was gripping.
    I also read Humboldt’s Gift(I want I want I want).

  • Michiganny

    PD James and Colin Dexter seem to transcend the crime novel genre and enter the realm of really good literature.

    I have not read anything by Raymond Chandler. How does Marlowe stack up to Messrs. Dalgleish and Morse? For that matter, how does Fleming’s Bond compare?


  • Johnathan Pearce

    Pedantry is in, but in Moonraker, Drax is not dealt a “yarborough”, which is a hand with nothing above a nine. To the contrary, Drax’s hand was a “rockcrusher”, if I recall correctly, 3 aces, 3 kings, and possibly 2 queens, something like that. That was the point, Bond immediately bids 7 Clubs, which Drax doubles, and Bond redoubles.

    Ed, you might be right. I will have to look up the passage again to see if this is so. Fleming was a stickler for details like this. I’ll go with his description. I have never heard the term you mention although it sounds brilliant.

    Ian, yes, Pratchett has some passages which are wonderful. My wife is totally addicted to his books.

  • Nick M

    I’ve only read one PD James and only know Morse from the TV but Marlowe beats them hands down. And Chandler writes like a slumming angel. His prose is brilliant, laconic, and cooly stunning. The only writer I can really compare him to is William Gibson at the top of his game. Unlike Gibson though Chandler could do characters.

    There is only one detective to hold a candle to Marlowe (and in a very different way) and that is, of course, the immortal Holmes.

    She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.
    “From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.”

  • “Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.”

    Also, Guy Crouchback during the disintegration of the British Army on Crete in Waugh’s Sword of Honor. Maybe the best depiction of a military disaster from the inside.

    The scene in the Roth’s Radetzky March where the elder Trotta obtains an audience with Emperor Franz Joseph to save his son’s career. I laughed and I had tears in my eyes at the same time.

    The end of Totlstoy’s Hadji Murad, where he gets killed.

  • the Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady
    Are sisters under their skins


    Not 10 days ago.

  • Corsair

    The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was a light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.

  • llamas

    The first few pages of the first chapter of ‘Round the Bend’, by Nevil Shute, which describe the introduction of the protagonist of the novel into the world of aviation. The descriptions of Sir Alan Cobham’s National Aviation Day enterprise are so well-done, you can smell it.



  • Andrew Duffin

    Conrad’s arrival in the East, in “Youth”.

    “I didn’t know what a good man I was until then…” etc.

    And he was writing, remember, in his THIRD language.

    Rather amazing that nobody has suggested Conrad yet, imho.

  • Michiganny

    Nick M,

    Thank you. I will give him a read.

  • The house was built on the highest part of the narrow tongue of land between the harbor and the open sea. It had lasted through three hurricanes and was built solid as a ship. It was shaded by tall coconut palms that were bent by the trade winds and on the ocean side you could walk out the door and down the bluff across the white sand and into the Gulf Stream. The water of the Stream was usually ark blue when you looked out at it when there was no wind. But when you walked out into it there was just the green light of the water over that floury white sand and you could see the shadow of any big fish a long time before he could ever come in close to the beach.

    It was a safe and fine place to bathe in the day but it was no place to swim at night. At night the sharks came in close to the beach, hunting at the edge of the Stream ad from the upper porch of the house on quiet nights you could hear the splash of the fish they hunted and if you went down to the beach you could see the phosphorescent wakes they made in the water. At night sharks had no fear and everything else….

    Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream.

    It reads aloud better silently… Especially with a loved one, some wine, a long weekend, when the rain is beating outside…