Michael Berube teaches literature and cultural studies at Penn State. On his blog, he’s started a l-o-n-g discussion (187 comments and counting) of Great First Lines in Novels. Some place called Center for Book Culture (??) is taking nominations in order to compile a list of the 100 best first lines.
Here are some of my favorites, not necessarily my favorite novels, but favorite first lines:
1. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
2. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only
3. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
4. There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it.
5. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
6. Now, Bix Rivers has disappeared, and who do you think is going to tell his story but me? Maybe his stepfather? Man, that dude does not know Bix deep and now he never will, will he?
7. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
“It’s so dreadful to be poor!”
8. Dr. Strauss says I shud rite down what I think and evrey thing that happins to me from now on.
9. It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.
10. All children, except one, grow up.
Not too hard. Who will be the first to guess all ten?