The first sentence is quite the conundrum. It is arguably the most important part of the story. It gives you a launching pad from which to adjust your fiction-reading mood. It tempers expectations and sets the stage, accompanied only by the title. It is a tricky little beast. A good first sentence can either make or break a story. Take the first sentence of this story, for example. “The,” a common article, but on its own, quite meaningless but it does usher in the second word, “first,” which is either a lie or a paradox, because the first word was obviously “The,” as we have mentioned. So far, with these two words, we can see that the narrator is very untrustworthy, owing to an oddly specific point in her childhood when a girl she used to date would often keep tabs on their relationship, as if in a competition, so the author rebels against this memory by blurring the lines between chronology, what is first and what is second. Next, the third word is “sentence.” This is an astute observation, and quite a self-reflexive one. The word “sentence,” is itself, nested within an actual sentence, forming a concentric, layered sentence that contains and is made of its essence. Consententric, if you will.
The fourth word, “is,” is an outright reference to Chinese philosophy. It is located in the direct center of the sentence, which, comparatively to the human body, serves as the stomach meridian, the Sea of Nourishment. Although looking into this even further would be a fruitless venture, because it just “is.” Let us pause for a moment to reflect on what we have here and now.
“Quite” is ambiguous. It’s the kind of word you’d use when something has exceeded your expectations but you don’t feel like giving it hyperbolic praise, like that song from an indie band your crush linked you. So what if I don’t like Autotelic as much as Orange & Lemons? They’re still “quite” good, heck, even better than Cueshé. Remember Cueshé? Yeah, I thought so. The sixth word mimics the first word but don’t be fooled. It is in lowercase and is planning to overthrow the hegemony. What hegemony? It’s still figuring that part out. Lastly, “conundrum” justifies this entire act of close reading. It completes the thought that, indeed, the first sentence is quite the conundrum. It sheds light on the fact that this close reading itself is a conundrum and the best way one can analyze the first sentence is to directly quote the first sentence. Hence, “The first sentence is quite the conundrum” should be a fitting analysis unto itself, much in the vein of the Cartographers of Borges’ Empire.