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The Shipping News - Annie Proulx More of my favorite opening lines:

"Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns. Hive-spangled, gut roaring with gas and cramp, he survived childhood; at the state university, hand clapped over chin, he camouflaged torment with smiles and silence. Stumbled through his twenties and into this thirties learning to separate his feelings from his life, counting on nothing."

Short of Dickens, never has such a dismal character so compelled me. I find with Proulx, as with Dickens, that it's mostly about the language. I read this twice just for the language.