By eighth grade, Jesus Christ had been bone meal and rumors for most of 1,974 years, but we were only thirteen. We were daredevils, gangsters. I had a girl's name, Francis, and a hernia.
So begins my favorite novel, Chris Fuhrman's The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys.
I'm revisiting it and other favorite stories about adolescence in the hopes of working through a writing snag, but I'm having a hard time moving past that opening paragraph. I don't know how long Fuhrman spent crafting something so perfect, but I know how long I've fixated on openings far less effective.
These words work so well for me because they are everything. They form an introduction, a piece of exposition, a foretelling of things to come. They are smart, spare, and efficient. They are obedient; they do what they are supposed to do.
But they are also alive. They're an affirmation, a celebration, a confession. They smile and smirk and grimace. They disobey, which is sometimes what adolescence is really all about.
I came back to Altar Boys looking for the voice -- the beating, bleeding heart of a story -- and got caught up in the art; the precisely built machine of words. But when they work really well, when they are at their respective best, the art is the voice. I guess that's why it's so hard to find either.
More posts like this one can be found under the tag "progress in progress," an admittedly painful title for what is essentially a series of influences, research, and other stuff related to a novel I'm allegedly trying to write.