Thursday, March 20, 2008

Great Beginnings - Favorite First Lines




Favorite First Lines

When you love books as much as we do (as many of you do), it's hard to select only thirteen great first lines. The following is only a partial list. Some, but not all, have been recognized by the American Book Review.

What are some great beginnings that stick in your mind?

1. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun. -Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

2. They shoot the white girl first. -Toni Morrison, Paradise

3. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

4. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. -Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

5. It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. -George Orwell, 1984

6. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. -Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

7. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. -J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

8. One hot August Thursday afternoon, Maddie Faraday reached under the front seat of her husband's Cadillac and pulled out a pair of black lace underpants. They weren't hers. -Jennifer Crusie, Tell Me Lies

9. You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If On a Winter's Night a Traveler. -Italo Calvino, If On a Winter's Night a Traveler

10. The sky above the port was the color of television, turned to a dead channel. -William Gibson, Neuromancer

11. We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. -Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

12. All of this happened, more or less. -Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

13. When I stepped out in to the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home. -S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders

8 comments:

Rachel Glass said...

Jane Austen had this amazing ability to just write as women think; what I loved about Pride and Prejudice was her uncanny craftmanship in depicting everything in such a way that women foresaw; you understood what she was trying to say, plainly and beautifully.

Good call on Orwell; there was another one before their time. This is a really inspirational and helpful blog, btw!

Margaret M said...

Oh, I loved The Outsiders as a teenager. Thanks for refreshing my memory!

Marissa Alwin said...

Wow, great list! I can see how it would be difficult to narrow it down!

Here's one of mine:
It was a dark and stormy night.
A Wrinkle in Time- Madeline L'Engle

*blink* maybe snoopy was on to something.

Ciara Stewart said...

My favorite of those are Gibson, Orwell, and Rowling. Their lines snap up my attention. I have always been particularly fond of J.M. Barrie's beginning paragraph of Peter Pan: "All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up.... You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end."

Aimless Writer said...

My fav; Call me Ishmel.
:)

Southern Writer said...

Good call, Ciara. I love Peter Pan. I think it's one of the most beautifully written books ever.

A couple of my other favorites:

Harriet thinks it was William Faulkner who said that Mississippi begins in the lobby of the Peabody hotel. ~ Lee Smith from The Last Girls

incredibly astute observation


The first time we were in bed together he held my hands pinned down above my head. ~ Elizabeth McNeill from Nine and a Half Weeks

oh, baby

and one from non-fiction:

And we have no evidence whatsoever that the soul perishes with the body. ~ Mahatma Ghandi from Love Beyond Life by Joel Martin and Patricia Romanowski

Lynne Connolly said...

What about:
"Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again."
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

Melissa said...

What about:

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." -J.R.R. Tolkien "The Hobbit"

Slightly more than one line, but I always remember it:

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." --Vladimir Nabokov "Lolita"

and one of my favorites:

"Marley was dead: to begin with." --Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol"