A year in first lines, 2017

How is that I, a non-meme-doing blogger, suddenly find myself doing memes, like the Six Degrees one? I can’t explain it exactly, but I think it happens when the meme encourages me to think about my reading or blogging. So, when Lisa (ANZLitLovers) reminded me of this end-of-year meme, that she was reminded of by Jane at Beyond Eden Rock, I decided to give it a go. To play, you “Take the first line of each month’s post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year.” (I think this means the FIRST line of the FIRST post in each month.) Apparently, the idea started with The Indextrious Reader.

Now, I have cheated a little on this meme because I found that of the twelve first posts of the month, six were the Six Degrees of Separation meme, and two were my Monday Musings on Australian Literature series. This happened because I post, on average, thirteen posts a month, so there’s good probability that Six Degrees, which occurs on the first Saturday of the month, or Monday Musings, which occur every Monday, will be the first post of the month. Sharing these posts wouldn’t give a good overview of my blog, so I’ve chosen the first post of the month that is not a Six Degrees or Monday Musings one.

So, my first lines …

January: Reading highlights for 2016: 

And so we finally say goodbye to a year many of us would like to forget, but before we do, I would like to share my 2016 reading highlights.

February: Delicious descriptions: Freya Stark on a studied absence of curiosity: 

Usually I post a Delicious Description after my main post on the book in question, but I’m reversing my practice this time, for no other reason than time.

Graham Greene, Travels with my auntMarch: Graham Greene, Travels with my aunt: 

Every year, my reading group aims to do at least one classic – usually something from the nineteenth century – but this year someone suggested Graham Greene.

April: Janette Turner Hospital’s Orpheus lost: 

Last year I did a mini-review of Elizabeth Jolley’s An innocent gentleman using some scrappy notes from when I read the book long before blogging.

May: William Temple Hornaday, The bird tragedy of Laysan Island: 

William Temple Hornaday (1854-1937), whose article “The bird tragedy of Laysan Island” was a recent Library of America (LOA) Story of the Week offering, is a tricky man to write about.

June 2017: Linda Neill, All is given: 

Linda Neil’s second book, All is given, is subtitled “a memoir in songs”.

Ali Cobby Eckermann, Inside my motherJuly: Ali Cobby Eckermann, Inside my mother: 

Ali Cobby Eckermann, a Yankunytjatjara/Kokatha woman, has featured a few times on this blog, including in my review of her verse novel, Ruby Moonlight, and my Monday Musings post on her winning the valuable Windham-Campbell Prize this year.

August: Hartman Wallis, Who said what, exactly: 

Never mind Hartmann Wallis’ question Who said what, exactly, I want to know who Hartmann Wallis is, exactly!

September: Phil Day, A chink in a daisy-chain: 

You’ve “met” Phil Day, author of A chink in a daisy-chain, here before.

October: Catherine McKinnon, Storyland: 

It is still somewhat controversial for non-indigenous Australian authors to include indigenous characters and concerns in their fiction, as Catherine McKinnon does in Storyland.

Stan Grant, Talking to my countryNovember: Stan Grant, Talking to my country: 

History is, in a way, the main subject of my reading group’s October book, Stan Grant’s Talking to my country.

December: Unbreakable: Conversation with Jelena Dokic: 

If you are a fan of professional tennis you will probably have heard of Jelena Dokic who hit the world stage during the 1999 Wimbledon Championships.

The question is, as Lisa asked herself, do these first lines give you a good sense of my blog and of my reading interests. Well, I’d say yes and no …

Yes, because:

  • my reading each year includes some classics, such as Graham Greene’s Travels with my aunt.
  • my focus is Australian literature and this is clearly evident in the list above.
  • I am aiming to increase my coverage of indigenous Australian literature, and this is evidenced here by Ali Cobby Eckermann in July and Stan Grant in November.
  • each year I read a selection of offerings from the Library of America, and there’s one here, William Temple Hornaday’s “The bird tragedy of Laysan Island”.
  • I enjoy reading left-of-field books, such as those published by Finlay Lloyd, exemplified here by Hartmann Wallis’ Who said what, exactly and Phil Day’s A chink in a daisy-chain.
  • I report on my reading group’s reads, including, here, Graham Greene’s Travels with my aunt and Stan Grant’s Talking to my country.
  • I try to attend literary events and author talks, such as December’s conversation with Jelena Dokic (which in itself is not wonderfully indicative of my literary events, but it’s the one that popped up!)
  • I mix my reading forms and genres, across non-fiction and fiction, so in this list are memoirs, a biography, novels, an essay, and a classic.
  • I try to mix up my opening sentences, and I think there’s some evidence of that here (but you can tell me how successful you think I’ve been!)
  • I run some series on my blog, the main one being Monday Musings of Australian Literature, but another being Delicious Descriptions (which you can see in February).

And no, because:

  • I generally read more women authors than men, but the mix here is pretty even.
  • I do read some translated and diverse writing, but there are none here, besides the indigenous writers.
  • One of the forms I love to read are short stories, and they are not represented at all in this set of posts.

Overall though, my first lines have captured my blog reasonably well … I’d say. 

34 thoughts on “A year in first lines, 2017

  1. Of course Sue. Your blogs are always interesting and fascinating reads. I look forward to them on Tuesday mornings (I know you send them Monday – but late).

    • Thanks very much Meg … yes, I usually schedule them for after 11pm. I think it has to be after 6pm to be Monday all around the world (though I may not have taken daylight savings into consideration.) But, hmmm, I should do it a bit earlier in the evening to catch New Zealand on Monday. Oh, the challenges!

  2. Yes, I’d say these first lines capture your blog quite well, though I notice the missing short stories too. I just checked your categories, and you have 97 reviews of short stories, you’ll reach your century in 2018 for sure!
    I think they also capture your style: “Never mind Hartmann Wallis’ question Who said what, exactly, I want to know who Hartmann Wallis is, exactly!” I love it!
    It’s a tricky decision to have omitted Monday Musings, because they are the highlight of my blog-reading week. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been about to shut down my computer for the night when MM pops into my inbox and I think, I’ll just have a quick look…
    It’s amazing to me that you can come up with a new topic every week!

    • Thanks Lisa. 97 have I? I love that you checked. I’ll have to watch for that centenary.

      And thanks re Monday Musings. If only one had come up I would have used it. I must admit that some of the topics are a bit flimsy but somehow something seems to pop up that I can use. I do love that there’s a band of people like you and Meg and Bill who seem to check it regularly. That sort of thing is what makes us keep blogging isn’t it? (But I’m sorry about the late posting. I mostly finish them earlier but post them later, partly to space my already well-spaced posts! And partly to give me one last chance to fiddle before Monday is over!)

        • Me too actually. I buy the odd individual issue, but I don’t subscribe to any anymore. They’ve all fallen by the wayside. I feel a bit guilty as I’d like to support some, but time is the issue. And blogs do have good brain food as you say.

  3. I like the idea of wrapping up the year. At my book club, we had a dinner as the last meeting, no book. But I offered to do a quiz, a sentence or two from each book to be matched to the book title. And to make it a bit trickier, two excerpts from one book. The quiz took about ten minutes (of intense silence). Two people scored ten out of ten, most scored from seven up, so the level was about right. And folk said how much they enjoyed it, and a chance to reflect on our reading over the year. I was quite chuffed!

    • Well done Neil. As I’ve said I think my gap often does a literary challenge but we’ve never done a quiz. I might try that one year, though probably not this as it’s potluck (no book) at my place tomorrow. I think I’ll be busy getting ready. Did you find it hard choosing the quotes?

      • Not really. I was trying to be sneaky, so I found two that mentioned maps, and there were others that shared a link. I deliberately made some quite easy. And ranged from one word to 20. The hardest to find was for Silence. We had to buy the book, but I couldn’t find it. Instead, I hunted down some reviews, and found a suitable quote in one of them. The rest were ebooks, so hunting for a word such as “map” was easy.

        I guess it took about two hours by the time I had found the quotes, and then formatted a pretty page.

  4. Lots of ‘I’s and ‘my’s in those first lines, which is probably part of your style. I on the other hand took Lisa’s lesson to heart and, despite what I think about my own style, managed to (almost) eliminate myself from the beginning of posts:
    Dec 1. Some Everyday Folk and Dawn (1909) is Miles Franklin’s second published novel.
    Nov 2. Born in England, Arthur Upfield (1890-1964) moved to Australia in 1911, enlisting with the first AIF in 1914. Demobbed in London in 1919, he returned to Australia in 1921, travelling and working extensively throughout the bush. (Mr Jelly’s Business)
    Oct 3. Justine Ettler’s 1995 best seller The River Ophelia is in the process of being re-released and I’ve been asked if I would like to conduct an author interview. Of course I would!
    Sep 1. “The Spare Room is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters in this book and real people, living or dead, is coincidental.”
    Aug 1. There are some writers I really, really dislike, and I don’t mean just Colleen McCullough whose ambition (and sales) far exceeded her talent, but writers of real ability who let me down. (Peter Carey, Parrot & Olivier)
    July 1. Geology daughter, a single mother with two infants and a teenager, and half-way through her PhD, obviously has time on her hands. She recently joined a book group, suggested they do The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), which up to that stage she hadn’t read,

    • Thanks Bill to sharing some of yours. I must say I have thought about Lisa’s comment just about every post I’ve written since that comment last year, but mostly decided not to worry, because very early in my blog I decided to abandon the more formal style of my youth and to let the perpendicular pronoun in. I hope it’s not too much!

  5. I am still debating with myself whether to participate in this meme. It does provide quite a bit of insight though my blog isn’t always as much about books as others. It may seem a bit self indulgent to do my first lines. But I have enjoyed reading the other’s.

  6. What a super way to reflect on the year and also give yourself a reality check on how well your blog is matching your reading interests (very strongly I’d say from your ‘yes because’ list. Thank you for explaining how this meme actually works – I was baffled when I saw the idea was to post the first line of each month’s post because I thought that meant some kind of round up post each month which i don’t do. Now you’ve unlocked the mystery for me I might give this a go.

  7. I’m not a meme playing blogger these days either, but I love this way of looking back at a year. It’s lovely to have met you through it, and when time allows I shall be looking back to see some of the things you’ve highlighted.

  8. Pingback: A year in first lines | The Slow Academic

  9. This is a curious post, WG. It was a lot of fun to go through the first lines. Thank you for all the book-love you share!

  10. You are so eclectic first line couldn’t possibly capture everything. It is a fun exercise though. Did you find you remembered most of the posts or did you have any “oh I forgot about that” moments?

    • Good question Stefanie. There were some “forgot about that moments”, such as the bird tragedy one and also the Linda Neil All is given memoir, though I enjoyed it very much at the time.

  11. Agree completely that the idea of a meme which gets your reader’s brain working on the books you’ve been reading from a different angle is just the kind of meme which warrants some attention. I enjoyed reading your romp through your year and look forward to seeing how you might choose to reflect on 2018 a year from now!

  12. Pingback: Feeling Retro? | jml297

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