I picked the bland "Fiction & Literature" section (the etc/misc/non-genre section) that I normally only browse when I have an author in mind. There was an empty chair where the 'I-' authors began, so I grabbed the first book and sat down. Here are the results:
A hyperlink means I wanted to read the fourth page.
- Ice-T, Kings of Vice
- Conn Iggulden, Emperor: The Gates of Rome
- David Ignatius, Body of Lies
- David Ignatius, The Increment
- Greg Iles, 24 Hours
- Greg Iles, Black Cross
- Virginia Ironside, No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a 60th Year
- John Irving, The 158-Pound Marriage
- John Irving, The Cider House Rules
- Susan Isaacs, Any Place I Hang My Hat
- Susan Isaacs, As Husbands Go
- Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
- Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World
- Kazuo Ishiguro, Nocturnes
- Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel, The Recipe Club
- Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation
- Jeremy Iversen, Rush
- Joshilyn Jackson, Backseat Saints
- Joshilyn Jackson, Between, Georgia
- Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
- Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
- Kate Jacobs, The Friday Night Knitting Club
- Roy Jacobsen, Child Wonder
- Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question
- Howard Jacobson, The Mighty Walzer
- John Hornor Jacobs, This Dark Earth
- Howard Jacobson, No More Mr. Nice Guy
- John Jakes, The Bastard
- Henry James, The Ambassadors
- Syrie James, Dracula, My Love
- Ashley JaQuavis, The Trophy Wife
- Lola Jaye, Being Lara
- Rula Jebreal, Miral
- Gary Jennings, Aztec
So why did I find some openings interesting and others not so much?
Ice-T's Kings of Vice had excellent atmosphere as it described a man choosing to walk from prison back to his neighborhood, but I wasn't hooked by the fact that the protagonist had been planning something big for when he was paroled. It could just be a robbery. *yawn* If not, I wish Ice-T had hinted at more. Lesson: Put a better lure on the hook.
Greg Iles' Black Cross was almost the same deal, except the cover makes it pretty clear that the something big has to do with Nazis. But, again, there's nothing in the first three pages to put a twist on Nazis.
John Irving's The 158-Pound Marriage piqued my interest because of the extreme gruesomeness of a past event, combined with the narrator's present marriage to the person in the earlier ordeal, combined again with the mysterious title. There's a lot going on here!
Susan Isaacs' Any Place I Hang My Hat tickled my sci-fi fancy. In a world...where weekly magazines of lengthy text-only articles can be popular. Ok, it's not really sci-fi but this at least counts as a fantasy, right?
Kazuo Ishiguro's An Artist Of The Floating World had a definite mystery vibe. The narrator lives in a rich house because of some kind of contest-of-character put on by the previous owners.
Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle was similar. At the top of page 2, "The last time I glanced at the library books on the kitchen shelf they were more than five months overdue and I wondered whether I would have chosen differently if I had known that these were the last books, the ones that would stand forever on our kitchen shelf." Sold.
Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question features a man who constantly and vividly fantasizes about things going wrong. Something has finally, actually gone wrong and I would complain about the vagueness, but the character is interesting enough that it almost wouldn't matter if the something turned out to be mundane to normal people.
What I want out of the first three pages is to see something happen that's interesting on its own yet promises more. Heck, it's the James Bond movie formula. The harder question I've begun wrestling with is: What do I want out of fiction in general? Why spend so much time with the stuff? I would welcome recommendations on the philosophy of literature, preferably from at least the time when novels were a thing. At some point I may need to make selections on behalf of library patrons; it would be nice to have a well-considered foundation for such decisions.