"This morning I got a note from my aunt asking me to come for lunch. I know what this means. Since I go there every Sunday for dinner and today is Wednesday, it can only mean one thing: she wants to have one of her serious talks. It will be extremely grave, either a piece of bad news about her stepdaughter Kate or else a serious talk about me, about the future and what I ought to do. It is enough to scare the wits out of anyone, yet I confess I do not find the prospect altogether unpleasant." (Walker Percy, in The Moviegoer).
Great introductions portend much, and Walker Percy, being a great writer, manages to provoke curiosity and raise questions right off the bat -- in one simple paragraph. First, there are three people: the narrator (presumably male, though it is unclear), the aunt, and the aunt's stepdaughter Kate. There are relationships, and I wonder about the relationship between the aunt and the narrator. It is a regular relationship, not altogether dutiful (as he says "I do not find the prospect altogether unpleasing"). Is the aunt a busybody, or genuinely concerned about his well-being? And what about Kate? Is she a family problem child? She's certainly been the subject of more than one piece of bad news. And why no job for the narrator? Is he a sluggard, or simply confused about what to do with his future? Does he have any relationship with Kate, or will he? Where is his life going? Is that what this is about?
That's a lot from one paragraph, and yet that draws me into the book and the story that unfolds. I read it some time ago, and I cannot now recall what the story is about. And yet I'm intrigued enough to read it again, perhaps, all because of one paragraph -- a great beginning. It matters how you start.