The 10 best first lines in fiction | Books | The Guardian

 

great first lines in literature

In a interview with Joe Fassler, horror fiction maestro Stephen King reflected on the magnitude of a novel’s introductory sentence. “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story,” he said. “It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” The first sentence sets the stage—however long or short the text—and hints at the “narrative vehicle. Following is a list of the best first lines from novels, as decided by the American Book Review, a nonprofit journal published at the Unit for Contemporary Literature at Illinois State Author: American Book Review. Jun 10,  · 53 Of The Best Opening Sentences In Literature "All this happened, more or less." But clouds massing east of Eden suggested that the first thunderstorm was .


The 50 Best First Sentences in Fiction


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Gregory Rabassa. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Constance Garnett. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer ; but that ain't no matter. Someone must have slandered Josef K. Breon Mitchell. You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. William Weaver. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, great first lines in literature, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.

This is the saddest story I have ever heard. I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost:—Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,—I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me.

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, great first lines in literature, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. Stately, great first lines in literature, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets for it is in London that our scene liesrattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

One summer afternoon Mrs, great first lines in literature. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, great first lines in literature, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary.

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.

Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and great first lines in literature a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.

Edith Grossman. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. I am a sick man. I am a spiteful man. Michael R. Where now? Who now? When now? Patrick Bowles. Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. I did not drag my father beyond this tree.

Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. Dalloway For a long time, I went to bed early. Lydia Davis. The moment one learns English, complications set in. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature. Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of ; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes' chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression.

I was born in the Yearin the City of York, of a good Family, tho' not of that Country, my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull ; He got a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade, lived afterward at Yorkfrom whence he had married my Mother, whose Relations were named Robinson, a very good Family in that Country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual Corruption of Words in England, we are now called, nay we call our selves, and write our Name Crusoe, and so my Companions always call'd me.

In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street. Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress. What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems, in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the tops of her stockings?

I have never begun a novel with more misgiving. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby You better not never tell nobody but God. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden. If I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog. Francis Marion Tarwater's uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at great first lines in literature head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up.

Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peephole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me. Ralph Manheim. When Dick Gibson was a little boy he was not Dick Gibson. Hiram Clegg, together with his wife Emma and four friends of great first lines in literature faith from Randolph Junction, were summoned by the Spirit and Mrs.

Clara Collins, widow of the beloved Nazarene preacher Ely Collins, to West Condon on the weekend of the eighteenth and nineteenth of April, there to await the End of the World, great first lines in literature. She waited, Kate Croy, for her father to come in, but he kept her unconscionably, and great first lines in literature were moments at which she showed herself, in the glass over the mantel, a face positively pale with the irritation that had brought her to the point of going away without sight of him.

In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, great first lines in literature, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull.

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. Hartley, The Go-Between On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the great first lines in literature wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen.

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there was to be found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Great first lines in literature, more ambitious than talented, and yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned great first lines in literature knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point.

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

It was just noon that Sunday morning when the sheriff reached the jail with Lucas Beauchamp though the whole town the whole county too for that matter had known since the night before that Lucas had killed a white man.

I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as "Claudius the Idiot," or "That Claudius," or "Claudius the Stammerer," or "Clau-Clau-Claudius" great first lines in literature at best as "Poor Uncle Claudius," am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, great first lines in literature, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the "golden predicament" from which I have never since become disentangled.

Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women. I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.

The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods, great first lines in literature. I will tell you in a few words who I am: lover of the hummingbird that darts to the flower beyond the rotted sill where my feet are propped; lover of bright needlepoint and the bright stitching fingers of humorless old ladies bent to their sweet and infamous designs; lover of parasols made from the same puffy stuff as a young girl's underdrawers; still lover of that small naval boat which somehow survived the distressing years of my life between her decks or in her pilothouse; and also lover of poor dear black Sonny, my mess boy, fellow victim and confidant, and of my wife and child.

But most of all, lover of my harmless and sanguine self. He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the great first lines in literature was mad.

Psychics can see the color of time great first lines in literature blue. In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together, great first lines in literature. Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.

High, high above the North Pole, on the first day oftwo professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of miles per hour, great first lines in literature. They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. Site supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes a great nation deserves great art.

Call me Ishmael.

 

26 Great First Lines From Literature

 

great first lines in literature

 

Mar 02,  · The Telegraph's pick of 30 of the most famous opening lines in literature. 30 great opening lines in literature. 06 Sep , pm first look review: a lurid and powerful sequel to The. In a interview with Joe Fassler, horror fiction maestro Stephen King reflected on the magnitude of a novel’s introductory sentence. “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story,” he said. “It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” The first sentence sets the stage—however long or short the text—and hints at the “narrative vehicle. Apr 28,  · Postwar American first lines don’t come much more angsty or zeitgeisty than this. Compare Saul Bellow’s Herzog: “If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.”.