Sunday, August 20, 2006

First Lines

I love great first lines in books. The gold standard is Herman Melville's beginning of Moby Dick:

Call me Ishmael.

Hard to beat that though Leo Rosten came close in his novel, Silky, about a Jewish-American private investigator:

Call me schlemiel.

Some other great first lines:

For a long time I used to go to bed early.
- Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

They don't often invite me to Balmoral nowadays, which is a blessing; those damned tartan carpets always put me off my food, to say nothing of the endless pictures of German royalty and that unspeakable statue of the Prince Consort standing knock-kneed in a kilt.
- George McDonald Fraser, Flashman in The Great Game

I have lost count of the days that have passed since I fled the horrors of Vasco Miranda's mad fortress in the Andalusian mountain-village of Benengeli; ran from death under cover of darkness and left a message nailed to the door.
- Salman Rushdie, The Moor's Last Sigh

I am 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.
- Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake - not a very big one.

- Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.
- Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

Any other favorites?


At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Irish Wolf said...

"He's a Mad Scientist and I'm his Beautiful Daughter."
- Robert Heinlein, The Number of the Beast

I hadn't meant to shoot the cat.
- Spider Robinson, Telempath

The sky over Chiba's Night City was a uniform gray, like a television tuned to a dead channel.
- William Gibson, Neuromancer

At 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." Steven King, The Gunslinger

At 7:13 AM, Blogger Michael Wade said...

Those are great additions!

Here's another: "The house and the old man were well matched, both large framed and failing fast."
- Peter Pouncey, Rules for Old Men Waiting

At 9:59 AM, Anonymous pawnking said...

How can you not include "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." ?? Maybe second only to Mody Dick in fame.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Michael Wade said...


I stand shamed before the world by the omission. That line is one of my favorites.

At 3:27 AM, Blogger Rowan Manahan said...

I wasted a lot of Harvard University's endowment - more than $6million, to be specific - and everyone around me applauded.
- Seth Godin, Permission Marketing

At 4:15 PM, Anonymous ob5idian said...

Empires long united must divide;
Nations long divided must unite.
So it has always been.

-Luo Guanzhong, Romance of the Three Kingdoms

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

Kafka - The Metamorphosis


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