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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Greatest First Lines of a Novel

Of all the books, you've read, wanted to read or wanted to write, which has the most memorable first sentences?

Naturally, someone has compiled a list of the top 100. Someone's choices for the top 100, that is. See it here.

There are a lot of books on there which I've never read and many which I have. But it does happen to be the case that a couple of my all-time favorites are included.

From Anna Karenina by Lev Tolstoy:
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

And number 47, from Voyage of the Dawn Treader by Clive Staples Lewis:
"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."

What are yours?

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Pr. Lehmann said...

"I saw Byzantium in a dream, and I knew I would die there."

Stephen R. Lawhead, Byzantium

Anonymous said...

Every Who Down in Whoville Liked Christmas a lot...
But the Grinch,Who lived just north of Whoville, Did NOT!

Want me to recite the whoe book? I used to be able to when my son was younger.

Actually, here's my favorite part of the whole book:
She stared at the Grinch and said, "Santy Claus, why,”
"Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?"
But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick,
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
"Why, my sweet little tot," the fake Santy Claus lied,
"There's a light on this tree that won't light on one side."
"So I'm taking it home to my workshop, my dear."
"I'll fix it up there. Then I'll bring it back here."
And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head,
And he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.
And when CindyLou Who went to bed with her cup,
HE went to the chimney and STUFFED THE TREE UP!

Judy P in Pgh

Kurt Onken said...

"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 housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

--Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, "Paul Clifford" (1830)

Actually, this is the most memorable because it is an example of truly bad writing...and is the inspiration for the "Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest" (, where writers submit first lines to imaginary bad novels. It's been the source of many hysterical winners, such as this 2007 winner in the children's literature category...

"Danny, the little Grizzly cub, frolicked in the tall grass on this sunny Spring morning, his mother keeping a watchful eye as she chewed on a piece of a hiker they had encountered the day before."

Betcha Julie's never come up with anything as inspiring as that, huh, Scott?

Anonymous said...

For me, nothing can beat the opening of 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' by Jonathan Irving.
I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice-not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.

Pete Ledic +

s bauer said...

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

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