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Opening lines

azewewish pointed me towards a list purporting to be The 100 Best Opening Lines in Literature. I read through it and they lost me when they listed the opening line from Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford. Yes, it's the one about "It was a dark and stormy night" which is all iconic and all, but most people don't realize that it keeps going . . .

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 lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

This was the line that inspired the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, where people compete to come up with the worst possible opening line for a theoretical novel. And here it is, listed as one of the best opening lines ever, most likely because Snoopy kept using the first seven words to open his own literary efforts.

So I pose a question--what, in your opinion, are the best opening lines in literature?

My personal favorite is and remains "My friend Hergal had killed himself again." (From Tanith Lee's Don't Bite the Sun, my favorite book ever.)

What are your favorites?

Today I took pleasure in a proper lemon Coke.

Today I learned you can rent a truck from Home Depot for an hour for about twenty bucks.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
wonderbink
Feb. 19th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, nothing quite like a serving of death to kick off a book, eh?
puppetmaker40
Feb. 19th, 2006 11:44 pm (UTC)
"The Mole had been working very hard all morning, spring cleaning his little home" The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 24th, 2006 04:35 am (UTC)
How 'bout a first paragraph?
The first time I ever got published was in an anthology called Imagination Fully Dilated. In that book was a story by Jack Ketchum called Firedance:

Frisco Hans shifted the Remington over-and-under to his scarred white-knuckled left hand and nervously adjusted his hat. A night as cold as this, they all wore hats. A night like this you could feel the body-heat rise off your head like steam out of a sewerpipe. For eight and a half years Hans had worked as a merchant seaman. Then one morning he jumped off a lifeboat made fast high over the leeward rail onto the deck of the Curlew, hit the deck too hard and lost his sense of taste. Couldn't tell salmon from a plate of liver and onions. It never came back. When he realized it was not going to come back he quit the merchant marine before he lost some other of his senses and took a job as a security guard in a frozen-fish factory way up here in Maine. Hans knew about loss. He kept his hat on.


Now I know this isn't high literature, but it has really stuck with me as a great source of chuckles. Humor has become more and more important to me in the last several years.

John Davis
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )