First Impressions
June 20, 2018 8:18 AM   Subscribe

“First Impressions” consists entirely of first sentences from 268 short stories published in The New Yorker over the past 20 years, from 1997 to 2017, all of which are cited below. After collecting every first sentence, I found they fell into a number of patterns, some surprising, others obvious: points of view, different tenses, genre fiction like western and military, stories set in smalltown America, stories set in Montana (oddly there were a lot), etc. I then arranged these patterns into a sequence of vignettes, a short story in its own right. A story by by Tom Comitta
posted by chavenet (11 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, boy! This is fascinating! Thanks so much for posting. I can't wait to review it in detail later.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 8:55 AM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I read it marveling at the coherence, and then wondered how I would react if I'd read it without knowing the provenance. Almost certainly would have faulted it for a lack of coherence.
posted by layceepee at 8:57 AM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Well, that was surreal.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:02 AM on June 20, 2018

This is seriously cool. I'm going to need to work my way through it, but I keep having to remind myself that each sentence is from a completely different story, because they sometimes seem to go so well together. For the ones that don't smoothly transition, they feel like a familiar style of some modern fiction: disjointed on purpose. Because I felt compelled, I extracted all the sentences, then appended the author and story list into a table in a word document here, so you can remix your own. I removed the section headings, and added a number column on the lefthand side, in case you want to re-sort it into Tom Comitta's order. Thanks for posting!
posted by mabelstreet at 9:08 AM on June 20, 2018 [10 favorites]

I had a t-shirt like that once. First and last lines from different classic novels. My favorite sentence: "My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire In a hole in the ground."
posted by dannyboybell at 9:12 AM on June 20, 2018

My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire In a hole in the ground."

Where is this from?? Google gives me nothing, but it sounds like a book I want to read.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 9:43 AM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Gulliver's Travels/The Hobbit
posted by betweenthebars at 9:46 AM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

posted by I_Love_Bananas at 11:54 AM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

The sentence using the word "proglottidean" doesn't come from a Will Self story by any chance, does it?
posted by Paul Slade at 1:57 PM on June 20, 2018

Paul Slade: seems it was Umberto Eco (via his translator Geoffrey Brock).
posted by misteraitch at 3:03 AM on June 21, 2018

As intended, I think, the entire collection appeared in my mind in black and white. I could imagine each sentence as the start of a segmented film noir. Interesting assemblage.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:51 PM on June 21, 2018

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