Second Lines to Classic Novels

by Haran X

Modern people struggle with classic novels. Paralysed by an inability to read anything over 140 characters, their eyes rarely move beyond the first few sentences of the blurb of the abridged version of the Dummies’ Guide to the novel’s respective SparkNotes Study Aid. Naturally, such people are left bereft of any substantive understanding of the classics. Consider the following exchange with a student during my Russian literature lecture at the University of Bookarest:

“Now class, who can tell me what The Idiot is about?”

“Is it your autobiography, sir?”

Luckily, we at Faking Lit have much more tenacity than the decerebrated specimens that inundate Bookarest’s lecture halls and safe spaces. Yes, we are dedicated to reading classic novels in their entirety. One such book is The Bible. In Deuteronomy 6:16, someone (I assume Jesus) exclaims, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Of course, it later transpires that this ‘Lord your God’ character was merely trying to avoid an English exam for which he was ill prepared. He lacked tenacity.

By contrast, Faking Lit are happy to be tested on our literary knowledge. In fact, to prove that we have indeed read all classical novels to date (and not just the opening lines), I have taken the liberty of reproducing, from memory, some second lines from classical literature:

“Call me Ishmael”

“Ermm, I would prefer to use the term ‘transgender’.”

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure – basically she died when her plane crashed crossing the International Date Line during the start of Daylight Saving Time. “

The Stranger by Albert Camus

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. So I stayed indoors and watched Netflix instead.”

– Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way. To summarise using formal logic notation: it was P and ¬ P.”

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. I later found out that this burning sensation was due to gonorrhoea.”

 – Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. And also those almond croissants they sell at Pret.”

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“It was bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen. That’s one o’clock in the afternoon using a 12-hour clock system. To be honest, I don’t know why I didn’t just simply write ‘1pm’.

 – Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. Still, he consoled himself: as a cockroach, he could easily survive the impending North Korean nuclear attack.”

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a good wife. Now, I ain’t saying she a gold digger, but Elizabeth Bennet wasn’t messin’ with no broke n***as.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Quod Erat Demonstradum.


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