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Book: The Sequel

It’s amazing how a good idea can turn bad so quickly when the general idiotic public is involved. Perseus Book Group had a brilliant idea: collect suggestions for the first line of a sequel to a famous (or not-so-famous) work. So fine, maybe not up there with the cure for cancer, but a pretty good literary exercise, right?

Why is it, then, that the most moronic suggestions have been made for what otherwise should have brought out some of the most inspired first-liners in novel-writing history?

Gems such as:

… Well, fuck this! —From The Lord of the Rings: The Retirement of the King (sequel to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien)

I mean, really? That’s worth printing? What, was it based on its originality?


“Tom, darling, I think it’s time we replaced that bug zapper on the dock,” said Daisy as she langorously stretched out on the divan. “Someone might find that green light distracting.” —From The Banal Buchanans (sequel to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)



HappyMeals are all alike; each unhappy meal is unhappy in its own way. —From Anna McKarenina (sequel to Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy)


These are just a few examples from the soon-to-be-published masterpiece collection (available sometime in June 2009). You can check out other submissions at the official BOOK: The Sequel website.

According to Shelf Awareness,
Submissions have come from all over the U.S., as well as England, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Madagascar and New Zealand.

Most popular authors:

  1. Jane Austen
  2. Charles Dickens
  3. George Orwell
  4. William Shakespeare
  5. F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. Herman Melville
  7. Ayn Rand
  8. J.K. Rowling
  9. Franz Kafka
  10. Margaret Mitchell

Most popular works:

  1. Pride and Prejudice
  2. The Bible
  3. The Great Gatsby
  4. Moby-Dick
  5. 1984
  6. Harry Potter
  7. A Tale of Two Cities
  8. Metamorphosis
  9. Gone with the Wind
  10. Atlas Shrugged

When ranting about this to my co-worker, she was reading some of the submissions over my shoulder and was laughing over many of them. I just want to put this disclaimer in that it’s possible I’m ranting preemptively, have broken my funny bone, lost my sense of humor, am too highbrow or too sensitive to appreciate the nuanced suggestions this project is collecting. It’s quite possible you will find them hilarious. I guess my overall point is that I wanted to read the type of sentence that would actually make someone writing whatever sequel it is worthwhile. Instead, it’s a little bit too much amateur comedy hour at the local townie bar for me.

Of course, notice I haven’t offered up my own first-liner suggestion. Hypocritical? Probably. But since I’m actually writing a novel, though not a sequel to anything, I’ll save my first-liners; you can read them when I’m published.


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2 thoughts on “Book: The Sequel

  1. lol i agree some very lame submissions. Also some quite witty ones, as you note. Just to clarify – what you're reading on the BOOK:The Sequel submissions site is *e v e r y t h i n g* that's being submitted by The General Public…the book publishing process starts tomorrow at 4pm – selecting which sequels actually go in the book, editing, design, layout, etc. etc. etc. So, what finally gets published will be the best contributions that live up to the idea. Hope that helps!And, what's your sequel?Rick, from Perseus

    Posted by Richard | May 27, 2009, 7:37 pm
  2. Thanks, Rick! That actually helps a great deal – I'm thrilled to know there will be some sort of selection process for what makes it into the final book. I really do think it's a great idea, so I'm excited to see the finished product.And honestly, I can't even begin to consider writing a sequel because to me, the best sequel ever written, NOT by the original author, was Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley (the sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind). The first line is: "This will be over soon, and then I can go home to Tara." I reread it at least twice a year and have for almost 10 years now. I could not begin to live up to that greatness.

    Posted by Rebecca Fabian | May 27, 2009, 7:47 pm

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