I was asked today what my favorite opening line in a book is. (I’m pretty sure the person got the idea to ask this question because of Inside the Actors Studio, but no matter.)
I eventually answered Whitman’s ‘I celebrate myself’. Anyone who is familiar with me and my writing will all take a collective gasp now.
In these three words is the conception of America’s greatest book of poetry. It is Emerson’s Poet realized. These three words are what got me into poetry ; Song of Myself was the first bit of writing to bring me to tears. ‘I celebrate myself’, when it comes down to it, is why I write.
Interestingly though, to me at least, ‘I celebrate myself’ was not what immediately came to mind. It was another three words: See the child. These three words are the opening line of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. From this ostensibly simple statement we get a sense of MCarthy’s entire voice. Dispassionate, objective, universal, unapologetically brutal. That McCarthy’s voice is captured in three words is akin to Whitman in this respect.
There is brilliance in a writer’s ability to communicate so simplistically and yet so profoundly, to have their voice shine through in three words.
I celebrate myself.
See the child.