Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Saturday, September 09, 2006

First Lines

I've been searching the books on my shelves, trying to pick out authors who've started with what I consider some attention-getting first lines. Here are a few I've found so far:

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. -- C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. -- Kaye Gibbons, Ellen Foster

If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head. -- Brady Udall, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint

"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. -- E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her. -- Ann Patchett, Bel Canto

My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. -- Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

Also, if you're so inclined, American Book Review has listed what they consider the 100 best first lines from novels. Ha Jin's sentence certainly qualifies!

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. -- Ha Jin, Waiting


Betsy said...

I loved this! Thanks!

I always look at the first sentence when choosing a book-- it was one of the lasting legacies from a 10th grade literature teacher who captured my imagination and shaped my world in more ways than she ever could have realized.

So your post had me thinking about books on my shelves and before I knew it...

Anyway, 3 good ones:

"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

"Besides the neutral expression that she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reverse, that she used for all her human dealings"
Flannery O'Connor, Good Country People

"In the tavern there are many wines-- the wine of delight in color and form and taste, the wine of the intellect's agility, the fine port of stories and the cabernet of soul singing."
Rumi, The Essential Rumi

beth said...

This gives me some great titles to add to my 'must read' list - thanks!

Mark Goodyear said...

Once years ago, I found a board game that did this. It was something like Balderdash.

The card listed the first sentence of books. Then everyone wrote what they thought would be the last sentence. One person read all of the "last sentences" then everyone guessed which one was right.

I didn't buy the game. Drat.

For the record, here's one of my favorites:

If music be the food of love, play on. (from Twelfth Night)

Mark Goodyear said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.