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Literary Glance: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

April 16, 2018

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer doesn’t have the best opening sentence in the world.  I don’t think it’s even that good of a sentence.  It’s not a convoluted mess like the first sentence in the novel Sweetbitter last year, but this one is still kind of bland:

Greer Kadetsky met Faith Frank in October 2006 at Ryland College, where Faith had come to deliver the Edmund and Wilhelmina Ryland Memorial Lecture; and though that night the chapel was full of students, some of them boiling over with loudmouthed commentary, it seemed astonishing but true that out of everyone there, Greer was the one to interest Faith.

It isn’t the longest or most confusing opening sentence I’ve read.  It just feels like a sentence where an author is going through the motions.  Two characters meet on a vague date in a certain location, the narrator pokes a little fun at most of the people in the setting, and then claims something was astonishing before the reader has a chance to judge anything.

I mean, it’s not horrible.  I just thought, “This is the opening?”  It feels like a rough draft opening sentence.  Maybe it is the rough draft opening sentence; maybe Meg Wolitzer is an author that editors don’t bother.

Maybe it’s wrong to be overly critical of an opening sentence, but if you’re going to be critical of a sentence, it should be the first one.  That’s where the author tries to pull in the reader, and I have to say, this sentence didn’t draw me in.

I know, I know, I’ve never gotten a publishing deal, so maybe I shouldn’t criticize a successful author, but at least I admit that I could be wrong.  Maybe this is a great opening sentence, and I’m just not literary enough to see it.  This could be why I never have gotten a publishing deal; I don’t know what a good opening sentence is.

Just so you know, I don’t stop reading books just because of a bland opening sentence.  I’ll usually give a book at least a couple pages.  And I’m glad I did.  A few pages later, the author swerved into what might be the best idea in recent memory:

She watched the girls standing with heads tilted and elbows jutted, pushing in earrings, and the boys aerosolizing themselves with a body spray called Stadium, which seemed to be half pine sap, half A1 sauce.

I agree with the narrator that Stadium sucks, but A1 sauce is great.  I’d buy a deodorant/aerosole made out of A1 sauce.  Even better, I’ll just use my A1 sauce as deodorant.  How did I not think of this earlier?  No man would ever make fun of A1 sauce.  I don’t know what ingredients go into Stadium (the ingredients in fictional deodorants can be difficult to track down), but I guarantee you A1 sauce is not one of them.  If A1 steak sauce were part of Stadium’s scent, Stadium would be awesome.  But it isn’t, and Stadium sucks.

Even though the opening sentence in The Female Persuasion is kind of lame, the author makes up for it with the idea of steak sauce deodorant.  Meg Wolitzer is genius.  I might keep reading The Female Persuasion just to see what other ideas she has.

*****

What do you think?  Is the opening sentence of The Female Persuasion kind of bland, or am I way off?  Would you buy a deodorant made (even partially) of A1 sauce?

One Comment
  1. Agreed on the opening sentence. Four names, a month and year, a college I’ve never heard of, and a vague reference to some sort of commentary which is apparently loudmouthed. It ended with the two names it started with, which was good, kind of brought it back home, but my eyes had already glazed over.

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