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The first lines of 10 classic novels, rewritten for social distancing.

Jessie Gaynor

March 16, 2020, 12:43pm

Of course, books can be a balm in these terrifying times—but as the surge in sales of plague-related literature reveals, sometimes all we want to read are books that speak directly to our terrifying times. Well, friends, with a little elbow grease, any book can be a coronavirus book. Behold: the first lines of 10 classic novels, rewritten for these times of social distancing.

Mrs. Dalloway
Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. Then she remembered the florist was closed. And the party was cancelled. Finally, some time to rest and reflect on her marital choices.

Swann’s Way
For a long time, I went to bed early. I wasn’t even that tired. It was more like, hey: here’s a good way to pass the time.

Middlemarch
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by the same leggings and sweatshirt she has been wearing for the last five days.

Notes from Underground
I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man… I am a man who is going to McSorley’s to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day!!!

The Bell Jar
It was a queer, pandemic spring, the spring they cancelled all the orgies, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

The Great Gatsby
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like going to a restaurant,” he told me, “just remember there are people in this world whose immune systems haven’t had all the advantages yours has had.”

Moby-Dick
FaceTime me, Ishmael.

The Hobbit
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. He planned to stay there indefinitely in order not to make the lives of essential healthcare personnel more perilous.

Jane Eyre
There was every possibility of taking a walk that day, as long as we kept six feet between us and the others on the path.

Pride and Prejudice
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be hoarding toilet paper.

Want more? Okay, here are the last lines, too.

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