Sunday, June 6, 2004

A personal boast (or, “First lines”)

The play opens next week. After rehearsals today we went for drinks, then to “Gala Bingo, Cambridge” (a blog in itself) and then wound up back at the director’s to play “Ex Libris”.

“Ex Libris” is a game where you’re given the title of a novel, a summary of its plot and the name (and dates of birth and death) of the author and then have to write a plausible first line to the novel.

Then you vote on the most convincing opening line submitted (and get double points if you pick the real one). I won the game on the strength of my proposed opening line for Mervyn Peake’s “Gormenghast” (which snagged six votes).

My thinking went like this: British modernist/surrealist, known for long, tortuous gothic passages of description, a man who will set the scene for pages before introducing action.

My first line: “On the north wall of the hall hung a helmet rusted scarlet and dun, presiding over cobwebs and abandoned silence.”

Peake’s Line: “Titus was seven.”

I refused to vote for Peake’s line on the basis that he would never have written a sentence that short …

I also came up, during rehearsal, with a fairly melodramatic opening line for what could be the third Naylor novel, if I ever get that far:

“The English Spring had unfurled around us, but for the body in herringbone tweed nudging against our prow it would have been a fine morning for punting: horse-chestnut blossoms standing like candles against the leaves, gently stirring wires of willow falling in cages across the sluggish green water, the college backs along the Cam stained bloody with poppies”.

There will be more Naylor soon, for its few (and deeply appreciated) readers.

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