How Well Do You Know Clarissa: My Favorite Novel in English

Have you tried guessing my favorite novel in Spanish? If that proved a little too confusing, let’s try to guess my favorite novel in English based on its opening lines.

A. “Dusk–of a summer night. And the tall walls of the commercial heart of an American city of perhaps 400,000 inhabitants–such walls as in time may linger as a mere fable. And up the broad street, now comparatively hushed, a little band of six,–a man of about fifty, short, stout, with bushy hair protruding from under a round black felt hat, a most unimportant- looking person, who carried a small portable organ such as is customarily used by street preachers and singers. And with him a woman perhaps five years his junior, taller, not so broad, but solid of frame and vigorous, very plain in face and dress, and yet not homely, leading with one hand a small boy of seven and in the other carrying a Bible and several hymn books.”

B. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters. “My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?””

C. “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.”

D.  “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer’s men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning–fresh as if issued to children on a beach. What a lark! What a plunge!”

E. “To get there you follow Highway 58, going northeast out of the city, and it is a good highway and new. Or was new, that day we went up it. You look up the highway and it is straight for miles, coming at you, with the black line down the center coming at and at you, black and slick and tarry-shining against the white of the slab, and the heat dazzles up from the white slab so that only the black line is clear, coming at you with the whine of the tires, and if you don’t quit staring at that line and don’t take a few deep breaths and slap yourself hard on the back of the neck you’ll hypnotize yourself and you’ll come to just at the moment when the right front wheel hooks over into the black dirt shoulder off the slab, and you’ll try to jerk her back on but you can’t because the slab is high like a curb, and maybe you’ll try to reach to turn off the ignition just as she starts the dive.”

So – which is my favorite? And my second favorite? And my least favorite?


7 thoughts on “How Well Do You Know Clarissa: My Favorite Novel in English”

  1. Your least favorite is B (unless you’re being contrarian; then your most favorite is B). I’m not familiar with Mrs. Dalloway (although the heroine shares your pseudonym de blog), or An American Tragedy, and I had completely forgotten about All the King’s Men. (Great opening for All the Kings’ Men)

    If I had to guess at a favorite novel based on plot, I’d guess Mrs. Dalloway since the protagonist seems the most centered in the story and also the language suggests that it may be more interesting. The main female characters just seem to be reacting to everything in David Copperfield and they are ciphers.

    If I had to guess just based on opening lines, it’s a tie between All the King’s Men or David Copperfield.


  2. Well i think your least favorite has got to be B. You have talked about your dislike of Jane Austen before. I would have guessed D as your favorite but you recently said that you appreciate Woolf intellectually but can’t get in to her novels (which is something I also experience.) ……So given your love of long novels, I’m going to guess that A is your favorite and C is your second favorite.


  3. Two novels I know you don’t like! I’m going to go with Mrs. Dalloway (lovely Mrs. Dalloway! My favorite Woolf novel so far, but I haven’t gotten to Orlando yet!) as your least favorite.

    I feel like a giant ignoramus for not recognizing the others, but just from what I see, I’d guess C as your favorite, since the business about being the hero of your own life kind of sounds like you.


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