What is the difference between a natural beginning and the beginning of a story? Some deny that there are any beginnings in nature, except perhaps for the origin of the universe itself, suggesting that elsewhere we have only a continuum of events, into which beginnings are variously `read' bydifferent societies. This book argues that history is full of real beginnings but that poets and novelists are indeed free to begin their stories wherever they like. The ancient poet Homer laid down a rule for his successors when he began his epic by plunging in medias res, `into the midst ofthings'. Later writers, however, persistently play off the `interventionist', in medias res opening against some sense of a `deep', natural beginning: Genesis or the birth of a child. The author also outlines how the inspiring Muse of epic gives way to the poet's ego, dies, revives and dies again. Ranging from Greek and Roman epic to the modern novel via Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, Sterne and Dickens, A. D. Nuttall has written an ambitious and original book which will be of interest to a wide variety of readers.