Thursday, June 25, 2009

What's your favorite opening line?

Nothing grabs our attention than a well-written opening line. It sets the mood for the rest of the novel and gives us the motivation to finish the book in our hands. Every time I finish a book, I always make it a point to go back to that first sentence. Going back somehow gives me a feeling of closure. Here are some of the most fascinating and brilliant opening lines of books I've read.

From Moby Dick
Call me Ishmael.

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

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

From I, Claudius
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" or 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, 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.

From 1984
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

From One Hundred Years of Solitude
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

How about you, dear reader? Are there any opening lines that are truly memorable?


Cristina Cuaresma said...

The inciput from Notes from Underground is my favorite. I remember it goes something like "I am a mean man. I am an ugly man--there is nothing at all attractive about me. I think there's something wrong with my liver." It does in the translation I read anyway. I wonder what it must have been in original Russian.

line of flight said...

One morning in December the steamer Tabo was laboriously ascending the tortuous course of the Pasig, carrying a large crowd of passengers toward the province of La Laguna.

(El Filibusterismo)

Peter said...

From Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."

Anonymous said...

I love how books begin and you chose some great ones! For some reason this one always sticks with me:

"Marley was dead: to begin with." (Christmas carol)

Short and to the point. great topic and I love your blog.
Thanks for the invite to come check it out.

rise said...

from a book to be read:

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

-Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)

Peter Michael C. Sandico said...

@Cristina: It's the first time I've heard of this word -- inciput. I'm so going to use this from now on.

@Lance: The last time I've heard of that line was in high school!

@Rise: Yes, I agree that the opening sentence of Anna Karenina is very interesting.

benjieb said...

A Clockwork Orange:

"What's it going to be then, eh?"

Stepford Mum said...

"There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives." - Damage by Josephine Hart, one of my favourite books.

Peter Michael C. Sandico said...

Hello, Stepford Mum! I'm not familiar with that book, but that line definitely aroused my interest.

Cristina Cuaresma said...

Hi, P. You've probably never heard of it because it's a, *shriek*, typo. Epic fail. "Incipit" is the proper spelling. Apologies, Kyusireader and Kyusireader Readers. Excuse me. I have an appointment to get flogged by my Inner Spelling Nazi.

Peter Michael C. Sandico said...

Hi Ina! No biggie! If the University of Chicago can commit typos in their style manual (gasp!), then everyone is entitled to their own typos.

Ingenue said...

from "The Catcher In The Rye" : "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, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it."

And from "The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn" : "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."