first lines

This story from NPR is a few months old but somehow I missed it back in September '04. You don't actually need to listen to it to suvive this post.

On the story's homepage, we read,
"You can't judge a book by its cover, but librarian Nancy Pearl thinks the first line can tell you a lot. "I think when you read a good first line it's like falling in love with somebody," Pearl tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "Your heart starts pounding… it opens up all the possibilities." And while a good first line doesn’t always make a good book, Pearl says the chances are better with a strong opener."

So I thought, why not start a "first line" meme. This may require a little bit of research on your part, unless you have a great memory. Find and post a few of your favorite first lines. These can be from fiction or non-fiction. And we'll count the beginnings of first chapters or the beginnings of the introduction/foreword/preface as valid first lines.

Here are a few of my favorites; two from non-fiction and three from fiction.

From The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon:

  • "Depression is the flaw in love."
From Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything by James Gleick.

  • "You are in the Directorate of Time."
From Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella:

  • "My father said he saw him years later playing in a tenth rate commercial league in a textile town in Carolina, wearing shoes and an assumed name."

From The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin.

  • "This all started because of a clerical error."

From 'Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis (his favorite of his books, and mine too).

  • "I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of Gods."

Anyone else care to play?


Eric said...

"One brutally hot summer's morning, Paul Trilby–ex-husband, temp typist, cat murderer–slouched sweating in his t-shirt on his way to work, waiting behind the wheel of his car for the ongest red light in central Texas."

"Kings of Infinite Space" by James Hynes

It's that unexpected word or phrase ("cat murderer," in this case), slipped casually into the mix, that grabs your attention and makes you want to stick around.

Jim said...

"Paul Trilby is still haunted by the ghost of Charlotte, the cat he drowned in "Queen of the Jungle" (included in Hynes's 1997 story collection, Publish and Perish), in this hilarious supernatural sendup of office life." - excerpt from Publishers' Weekly review.

supernatural sendup of office life--sounds like a must read!

Eric said...

I'll say this for "Kings": if you want to get an accurate rendering of the everyday speech patterns of Texans, Trilby's got the dialog and rhythm down as good as anyone I've ever read.

It's a very strange book, and contains a number of very graphic sex scenes and enough profanity to fill up a season of "The Sopranos"...but it's also pretty freakin' hilarious and occasionally downright spooky. You could do worse for a light summer page-turner.

Oh, and I just noticed the typo in my comment. "ongest" should be...well, I'll let you figure it out! ;-)