First Lines

The first lines of some of the books I have read this year:

. . . I know, I understand, I shouldn’t have done it.

The skeletons mutiny and push all the pussycats overboard.

I sing the city. Fucking city.

We begin with the transcendent space of bridges—the distances into which they reach.

On a bright May morning, so early that the last of the mist was still lingering low over a bend in the Vézère River, a white van drew to a halt on the ridge that overlooked the small French town.

The day after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the United States on October 29, 2012, the entire region was strewn with uprooted trees.

Philosophical genealogy has lately been defined as the unveiling of ’causes masquerading as reasons.’

To have queer-inclusive policies, we need to first examine our theology.

I am sitting writing this in a bar, doing what in drug and alcohol addiction support groups is called ‘defining a private world’, according to their poster next to the church opposite the Mash Tun, where I first met my love . . .

‘Myself, I believe in God’, wrote D. H. Lawrence.

In Western culture, for better or worse, men and women have located themselves in time and space by marking the earth.

Let’s get one thing straight: I was the perfect man for this case.

“Wise is Sophocles, wiser Euripides, of all men Socrates is wisest.”

Posture is, as we shall see, a contentious as well as a contradictory concept in Western Culture.

A little hand-painted sign in the style of those cliches that you can pick up for a buck or two in the sale bin at TJ Maxx hands slightly crooked on the wall of Mark Franklin and Rose Chilcoat’s living room above a window that looks out at their Durango, Colorado, neighborhood.

There is nothing better for a child than to grow up at the ends of the earth.

Turtle Island—the old/new name for the continent, based on many creation myths of the people who have been living here for millennia, and reapplied by some of them to “North America” in recent years.

The captain of the vessel was named Hekla, a name that in the language of her ancestors meant cloak, though she had never worn a cloak.

I have lived a life of leavings.

This book explores the political worldview of the Mormon apostle-president Ezra Taft Benson, arguably one of the most outspoken and controversial Mormon leaders in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The shades are drawn, the apartment dark except for the lunar glow from the kitchen and, in the living room, the flicker of the twelve-inch black-and-white screen.

In meinem Leben gibt es eine Geschichte, die ich noch keinem Menschen erzählt habe.

Whoever closes the wings / of the altar in the Lindenhardt / parish church and locks up / the carved figures in their casing / on the lefthand panel / will be met by St. George.

The aim of this course is to read several of Dostoevsky’s best-known works and in this way to introduce the main literary and ideological elements of his work.

When a medieval nun spoke of the dangers of soiling her garment of chastity or of the duty of weaving a garland of roses for Mary the Virgin by saying the rosary, what was the meaning of the dress or the flower?

In Venice, in an of [sic] the out-of-the-way corner of the Piazzetta located at the corner of the basilica of Saint Mark, there is a statuary group depicting the Four Tetrarchs.

Its arrival is in your bizarre aloneness, when a cranial firing returns of an instant, each resonates and is at once the first and last, at once it is all there is.

I arranged my library by gender.

Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer verwandelt.

Unruffled by the breeze, water holds steady state.

Inclination is not a steady state; it is a slope, as the word says, a disposition toward affect, which comes from certain likable qualities in the object: but it may become affect or impetuous love.

According to my imaginings, the universe is contracting at an ever-growing speed until it turns into one unbearably bright point of light.

“Das also ist das Gesicht eines Rächers!” sagte ich zu mir, als ich mich an dem bewußten Morgen, bevor ich mich auf den Weg machte, im Spiegel ansah.

A deep dive into Paul Cézanne’s process in pencil, ink, and watercolor, on individual sheets and across the pages of sketchbooks, Cézanne Drawing traces the development of the artist’s practice on paper and explores his working methods, from his student days to his final years at the start of the twentieth century.

Vom Himmel muß unsre Philosophie der Geschichte des menschlichen Geschlechts anfangen, wenn sie einigermaßen diesen Namen verdienen soll.

I have a sad and serious duty to perform; with the publication of this work from my brother’s literary remains, scarcely a year after his passing, I must say a few words about its preparation and plan.

I thought that if I could put it all down, that would be one way.

I get paid to call attention to the beautiful mysteries of life.

Du fragst mich nach meiner ersten Erinnerung an eine Wolke.

Children, young sons and daughters of old Cadmus, / why do you sit here with your suppliant crowns?

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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2 Responses to First Lines

  1. Mark Bailey says:

    Inspiring tour through a serious reading list. Nice.


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