Theme to plot to word, Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind embraces its very bookness--the setting, characters, what they say, the vigor with which they pine, their pastimes, their secrets. Shelved amid tomes that hinge on the suspension-of-belief modus operandi, TSotW goes more with: Look, you and I both know you're reading a book and there's no sense in pretending otherwise. Clearly, you're a book-person; and boy've I got a story for a book-person such as yourself. If you pick a ripe copy of this book and squeeze, bookness really should trickle out (test-squeezing prior to purchase is recommended).
What's impressive is that even this book--so gutsily BOOK through-and-through--engenders a cinematic scent, one that results from more than the verdant scenery for which it is famed. At a pace of approximately every three pages, Zafón churns out sentences commanding enough to be clipped from context and broadcast in preview to the fullness. Big Spaghetti Western-worthy lines. Coming-attraction lines.
One of my personal favorites from The Shadow of the Wind:
"Our world will not die as a result of the bomb, as the papers say, it will die of laughter, of banality, of making a joke of everything, and a lousy joke at that."
In honor of reputable preview-sentences of books past (and present), I would like to offer the following previews from Scout & Engineer's works to date:
Scout & Engineer No. 1
From Be Clear and Prosper by T. D. Edge: "Your church reckons the universe gave you all some sort of auric glow that convinced all other religions to lay down their good books and grab an enpound detector. But I say you simply brainwashed enough punters to make it past the spiritual, in inverted commas, bleedin' tipping point."
From Inside the Mountain by Nemone Thornes: "There was so much that was smothered before it began, because people didn't see the lines they ran on, the hidden rules that controlled not only their behaviour, but their thoughts, their knowledge of what was possible."
From Convergence by Zeke Jarvis: "Thus, although one will not find the actual sum of a given series, one at least can determine whether or not a finite sum exists. Sometimes, this is the best for which one can hope."
From Eyewitness by Erika Holzer: "That did it. The press was treated to a family reunion on the sidewalks of New York and the spectacle of a Mafia princess being whisked away into the bosom of her family."
Elena Gorokhova, from this issue's interview: "These last two decades of the Soviet state were known as a period of stagnation, both economic and intellectual, with cynicism and disillusionment settling in the generation of my peers."
Wendy Never Married by Christopher Blonde
From the title story: "I studied studied studied, day and night, I got the music theory books and I'd fall slam asleep listening to either the guys singing or this typing-teacher-sounding lady talking about how to beef up your vocal cords and still keep 'em limber."
From The Strange Case of Christine Hodge's Pica: "No matter how close she snuck to the lawnmower with its hood popped vertical, she could not put her finger on why the pungent smell made her not just want, but violently need, to drink."
From The Poincaire Boys' Girls: "He had been happy. A new sort of man, he thought. Just having met Marah. Still dripping from his baptism in the white of her eyes and teeth and heart. Why then? Why had he?"
From The Picture That Cost Alice Everything: "It was like sitting outside in a solid block of shade, squinting for clarity at a minute detail across the way, then realizing with a sudden sense of time-loss that you cannot see the detail clearly any longer because the sun has shifted to you. You are highlighted. You are warm."
From Carnies Chase Fast Women: "News of my pregnancy was met with numerous chastisements on how I never should 'of' opened myself to a man who'd blow off in the wind within the week."
From A Solution For Camels: "Gran, just like I have not heard Mama storm at people with great bolts of f-words and s-words, will tell me a dressed-down version of what Mama said by reply."
From Sports & Entertainment News: "Because my internship involved, in part, sieving through a voluminous haul of letters to the editor, I could pinpoint the moment when every reader in town became personally privy to the unabridged, unsung, and unexpected full story. Amazingly, it was right away."
From Who is Carlotta Jenkins?: "Eternity promises you the opportunity to see your loved ones, and liked ones, and casually acquainted ones, over and over and over and over, so help you God."
From the included selection of Esther in the Flesh: "Every weekday since the third week of her AP English class, I had eaten lunch in the teachers' lounge because I more or less viewed the cafeteria as a cafe for spiritual vampirism, a place where one went only to lose in testimonial momentum whatever was gained via the intake of food, and because our librarian was understandably loath to allow my handling of books while I ate."
The good thing about these previews, of course, is there is no need to wait for the betokened works' months-off release dates. For interested readers, Scout & Engineer No. 1 and Wendy Never Married are both available in paperback, PDF download, Kindle ebook, and Nook ebook here.
Thanks for reading!