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The Book Browser

A sampling of the opening lines from books out this week

Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lulu
by Barry Gifford
Grove Weidenfeld, $15.95
Fiction

Lula and her friend Beany Thorn sat at a table in the Raindrop Club drinking rum Co-Colas while watching and listening to a white blues band called The Bleach Boys. The group segued smoothly from Elmore James’s ”Dust My Broom” into Robert Johnson’s ”Me and the Devil” and Beany let out a snort.

”I can’t stand this singer,” she said.

”He ain’t so bad,” said Lula. ”Carries a tune.”

”Not that, just he’s so ugly. Guys with beards and beer guts ain’t quite my type.”

Lula giggled. ”Seein’s how you’re about as thick as a used string of unwaxed dental floss, don’t know how you can criticize.”

Simone De Beauvoir
By Deirdre Bair
Summit, $24.95
Biography

Her earliest memories were so closely linked to the color black that, throughout her life, whenever something of her childhood came to mind unbidden she often had the sensation of being smothered in blackness. The first memory, linking black with frustration, was of the barricade created by the stiff fabric of her mother’s dress as she attempted to embrace her. The afternoon gloom seemed black in the high-ceilinged rooms where other somberly garbed adults spoke in hushed voices and all the children sat in silence, not daring to call attention to themselves by so much as a whisper. Black was even the color of the hoop she rolled in the Luxembourg Gardens in an isolated dignity far beyond her years, for Simone de Beauvoir was not allowed to speak to other children, let alone play with them, unless they were of the proper social class and her mother had first paid a formal call on theirs.

In a Father’s Place
By Christopher Tilghman
Farrar Strauss Giroux, $18.95
Fiction

Between the clay banks of the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the brackish waters of the Chesapeake Bay there is a beach a thousand miles long. The sand is fine enough, but it is sharp with oyster shells and rough with stones the color of oxblood and ginger. There’s always a tangled line of seaweed running the length of the last high tide. Except for this narrow divider, the rolled farmland and mirrored water meet so seamlessly that on hazy days the big mansions, their pecans and honey locusts like sails, seem to be making their way, somewhere, on the shimmer of the Bay.

On one spot of this beach along the Chester River, there is a boy sitting on the polished curve of a washed-up loblolly pine. His eyes are dry now, but the dirt on his cheeks is streaked and there is salt on his lips. He is holding a crab net and an empty bushel basket, and his broad-brimmed straw hat floats in the water at his feet. Behind him, across a stand of corn beginning to brown in the early August heat, he can hear the steady hum of tractors plowing up an old hay field. Distant on the water he can see seine haulers, waist-deep in the sandbar, setting out the huge net on a necklace of yellow floats. Beyond them the crab boats are painfully bright in the sun, a flash of crystal at the water’s edge.

The boy’s name is Cecil Mayberry; he is twelve, white, and he knows something.