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Three first pages

Once upon a time a published novelist told me he had revised the first page of his most current novel over one hundred times.

That seemed excessive to me at the time-- I was nineteen and very impatient-- and today it still does.

But first pages are devilish difficult to get right. So it is with the first page of this novel, which I have now finished and am revising.

Below you will find three versions of the first page of Skater in a Strange Land. If you're so inclined, would you be so kind as to leave a comment explaining which version you like best and why?

I've no idea whether I will use any of these three. It's possible that elusive perfect first page is still to be imagined. We shall see.

 

Version #1

 

This is going to be one of those long stories, but I promise not to tell it in a way that taxes your patience.

 

It is also one of those stories with many bits and pieces, some of which even to this day no one quite understands.

 

But it all started in the year 329 of our reckoning, and 2005 of the wide world's, the year that in North America there was no ice hockey season.

 

I know what you're going to say: a story about ice hockey? This can do nothing but tax my patience.

 

Well, for firsts, you have to understand that in my country, which is called Borschland, ice hockey is the great and only sport that we can call a religion, or, in our language Te Hijlikesport. And religion, if you look at it in the right way, is never patience-taxing.

 

But this story is not about ice hockey as much as it is about the heart. And this, I think, will be appealing to you no matter how much or how little you like ice hockey.

 

Ah, Te Hart, this is also what makes Borschic people sit up and take notice, for Te Hart is not only romance for one who lives in my country, though there is that, and there is a young lady in this story, who is of course very beautiful, and whose name is Rachael.

 

But all that is beside the point. Te Hart is best translated "the heart's desire," and this is in truth all of life; this is saints, angels, and all spirits together, singing in sheltering harmony, as we say in Borschland.

 

But I think I must already be taxing you, with all my talk about abouts and so little story so far.

 ...

#2

 

It is a little-known fact that, every year, we in Borschland send out invitations to foreign players to play ice hockey in the Borschland Hockey League.

It is also a little-known fact that no North American had ever played hockey in Borschland until Sherman Reinhardt.

Our Sherm.

Sherm’s story begins in the year 329 of our reckoning, and 2005 of the wide world’s, the year that in North America there was no National Hockey League season.

Now, to be very clear: I, Kadmus Greningen, am a journalist, and for the past 44 years I have been writing about the game of ice hockey in my little-known nation of Borschland. But this is not a story strictly about hockey. It is about Te Hart.

Te Hart can be translated roughly from Borschic as “The Heart,” and you may think this story is about a romance. And yes, there is one—certainly there is one.

But Te Hart means more to us Borschers than simply the flutterings of passion (temporary as they often are).

More properly, Te Hart is best translated "the deep longing of the heart," and this is in truth all of life; this is earth, sky, water, ice, people living in this world, the saints who straddle this world and the next, angels, and generally all spirits together, singing in sheltering harmony, as the holy deacons have always said in Borschland.

So if you like ice hockey, you might be partial to this story. And if you like romance, you might possibly appreciate this story. But if you are a person of spirit, then, if I may so humbly suggest it, you will listen to this story as one who listens to the songs of heaven.

Well. That did seem lofty. So on with it, on with it, Kadmus.

 ...

 

#3

 

There is a saying in Borschland that a hockey puck is akin to the human heart, for as a puck in hockey so the heart in love is fiercely knocked about while seldom reaching its goal.

 

You will have to forgive us Borschlanders. We are a very romantic and hopeful people, and nearly all of us consider love nobler than a frozen rubber disk. But it is true that Borschlanders are ice-hockey mad, and so are prone to sayings that combine love and our favorite sport.

 

So much is also true of the story I am about to tell, the story of Sherman Ignatius Reinhardt, the first North American ever to play ice hockey in the Borschland Hockey League.

 

But to be very clear: I, Kadmus Greningen, journalist, eyewitness of the Sherm Reinhardt story, must also inform you that what follows is not strictly about love, nor ice hockey.

 

It is about Te Hart.

 

Te Hart can be translated roughly from Borschic as “The Heart,” and from this you may conclude that I come to you with a romance. And yes, there is one—certainly there is one.

 

But Te Hart means more to us Borschers than simply the flutterings of passion (temporary as they often are).

 

Te Hart is best translated "the deep longing of the heart," and this is in truth all of life; this is earth, sky, water, ice, people living in this world, the saints who straddle this world and the next, angels, and generally all spirits together, singing in sheltering harmony.

 

But on with it, Kadmus, on with it.

 

Sherm’s story begins in the year 329 of our reckoning, and 2005 of the wide world’s, the year that in North America there was no National Hockey League season.

...