There’s something bizarrely satisfying about assembling a list of titles around a suitably flimsy concept, in this case the number ‘one’ in honour of our anniversary month. Here follows a chronological tenner of novels with the word or number ‘one’ in the title. Surprisingly, the resultant assemblage features a variety of genre and style spanning half a century of literature, featuring many authors and novels frequently listed in reputable ‘best of’ collections. Who’d have thunk it? Enjoy.
One Lonely Night (1951)
Distinguishing Features: Communists, misty pavements, and a trash-talking private eye.
Some place over there I had left my car and started walking, burying my head in the collar of my raincoat, with the night pulled in around me like a blanket. I walked and I smoked and I flipped the spent butts ahead of me and watched them arch to the pavement and fizzle out with one last wink. If there was life behind the windows of the buildings on either side of me, I didn’t notice it. The street was mine, all mine. They gave it to me gladly and wondered why I wanted it so nice and all alone.
Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
Distinguishing Features: Book burning, nostalgic imagery, and thought-inducing prose.
Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
The Once & Future King (1958)
T H White
Genre: Arthurian legend/fantasy
Distinguishing Features: Chivalry, swords, and the triumph of human nature over systemic power.
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn.”
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960)
Genre: Children’s Literature
Distinguishing Features: Brilliant rhymes, delightful turns of phrase, the desire to be a kid again.
From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962)
Distinguishing Features: Nurse Ratched, consistent banning from highschool reading lists, an Academy Award-winning movie.
If you don’t watch it people will force you one way or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962)
Genre: War fiction
Distinguishing Features: Soviet brutality, prison camp oppression, and a lesson in mental survival.
When you’re cold, don’t expect sympathy from someone who’s warm.
One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Genre: Magic realism
Distinguishing Features: Heartbreaking beauty, a fanciful history of Colombia, a certain rebellious twisting of the laws of reality.
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
The Power of One (1989)
Genre: Bildungsroman/historical fiction
Distinguishing Features: Boarding school woes, South African racial tensions, overcoming tyranny with your mind and some hard-acquired boxing skills.
In each of us there is a flame that must never be allowed to go out. That as long as it burns within us, we cannot be destroyed.
Once Were Warriors (1990)
Distinguishing Features: State housing, domestic abuse, and Maori dispossession.
Our people once were warriors. But unlike you, Jake, they were people with mana, pride; people with spirit. If my spirit can survive living with you for eighteen years, then I can survive anything.
Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000)
Distinguishing Features: Ironic humour, melancholy reflection, larger than life characters.
After a few months in my parents’ basement, I took an apartment near the state university, where I discovered both crystal methamphetamine and conceptual art. Either one of these things are dangerous, but in combination they have the potential to destroy entire civilizations.