Exclusive: The Opening Lines of Garth Risk Hallberg’s ‘City on Fire’

February 4, 2015 | 1 book mentioned 4

As many of our readers know, long-time Millions staff writer Garth Risk Hallberg’s debut novel City on Fire is coming this fall. It landed on our annual preview last month and has been the subject of much media interest. Right now, Hallberg and the book are being featured at the ABA’s annual Winter Institute, a sort of Davos for independent booksellers. We were able to secure a copy of City on Fire and can share the novel’s opening lines. The book’s Prologue begins:

IN NEW YORK, you can get anything delivered. Such, anyway, is the principle I’m operating on. It’s the middle of summer, the middle of life. I’m in an otherwise deserted apartment on West 16th Street, listening to the placid hum of the fridge in the next room, and though it contains only a mesozoic half-stick of butter my hosts left behind when they took off for the shore, in 40 minutes I can be eating more or less whatever I can imagine wanting. When I was a young man—younger, I should say—you could even order in drugs. Business cards stamped with a 212 number and that lonesome word, delivery, or, more usually, some bullshit about therapeutic massage. I can’t believe I ever forgot this.

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  1. This books takes place in NYC during 1977 and that’s the cover they came up with? WIith all the iconic images and art from that era. Ugh.

  2. Well, you can still order in drugs in NYC. More easily than ever. Huh. Unreliable, like every narrator?

  3. They gave him $2MM not because it will sell as literature (what really can these days?), but because Knopf could option it for film/tv (which it ought to have been instead).

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