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Turning pages, ending an year, writing

Random Lines from Books

I don’t know if anyone else does it, but I like opening books at random and reading a random line, every once in a while.

I do it at bookshops, at libraries, at home, at other people’s homes.

I don’t know why I do it any more, it is a sort of ‘just because’.

Earlier, as a child and a teen, I did it whenever faced with a decision, absolutely certain that the answer would lie in the word, the line that my eyes first hit upon. I remember making quite a few of my decisions that way.

But now, I guess picking random lines from random books has become a delicious thing to do.

I don’t know what I may find, and then I can turn it over in my mouth tasting the line, each of its words, moving each around in my tongue this way and that, biting into the flesh of the sentence, and waiting for the pit to emerge. If I like the line way too much I read a page, if I end up turning a page or two, I have to have the book. Some people swear by the 99th page as a litmus test for the quality of a book, and are setting up a website to test the theory.

I’m much more of a believer in randomness.

I was cleaning my desk this morning, and happened on “Writing down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. I’ve gushed about her before, and opened the book with anticipation. On page 5o, I found:

“We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand. We were here, we are human beings; this is how we lived. Let it be known the earth passed before us. Our details are important. Otherwise, if they are not, we can drop a bomb and it doesn’t matter.”

As a writer, I can find no better quote to end an year.

So here’s to random lines in random books, and more of those in the coming year. Bring it on, 2011…and have a Blessed New Year, all.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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