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Best first lines in literature-- let's take a break from politics for a bit of culture.

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posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 08:31 PM
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Good evening ATS bibliophiles!

We all know the importance of a good first impression. The opening sentence of the best novels leave the reader wanting more, eager to delve into the text and mind of the author. There have been more than one book I set right down after a couple of lines, sure the book was not for me. And then there were the first lines that assured me that I was spending my time in the best possible ways.

The following are some of my all-time favorite literary openings. Enjoy and I look forward to reading yours, and your take on the lines that captivated my imagination and left me wanting more!

Without further ado:

"Call me Ishmael." -Moby Dick

Admittedly, this first line did not draw my attention the first time I picked up the book while still in highschool. But recently I gave this book a second read, and was amazed at the way the first sentence did so much-- directly address the reader, establishing intimacy but also hinted at possible deception from the narrator. He did not say his name was Ishmael, rather that we should call him such, leaving the possibility that he was lying about that, and who knows what else? Indeed, as the narrator completely disappears at certain times of the text and at others overhears and observes events he couldn't possibly know about, we find the narrator is not reliable. Excellent story no less.

"They're out there." -One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

An immediate peek into the paranoiac mind of our narrator. Excellent book and interesting beginning.

"It was a pleasure to burn." -Farenheit 451

"A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head." -A Confederacy of Dunces

Funny, frustrating (the protagonist is so unlikable and yet the reader is left with pity) and sad, this is such an excellent and rather unknown book. Highly recommended.

"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 Own Meany." -A Prayer for Owen Meany

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." -The Catcher in the Rye

So my friends, what are some of your faves when it comes to first lines? Looking forward to hearing from you!


edit on 14-10-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)

edit on 10.15.2016 by Kandinsky because: Fixed 'Freudian slip.' : D




posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 08:56 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

You want Culture? How about some 80's culture.



I prefer Shakespeare infinitesimally though.
edit on 14-10-2016 by Encryptor because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 08:59 PM
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a reply to: Encryptor

Ha. Well it's something that isn't Clintump so I'll take it!

On second thought.. I'll take the politics.

And agreed on Shakespeare over Culture Club.

edit on 14-10-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:06 PM
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to wound the autumnal city.
So howled out for the world to give him a name.
The in-dark answered with wind.


-Dhalgren



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:21 PM
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a reply to: Dan00

Ooh, interesting opening. Thanks for contributing!
edit on 14-10-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:35 PM
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Always dear to me is the opening of Evangeline by Longfellow.

THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:38 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

Can't believe I forgot this one:




They sent a Slamhound on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair. It caught up with him on a street called Chandni Chauk and came scrambling for his rented BMW - Its core was a kilogram of recrystallized hexogene and flaked TNT.

-William Gibson Count Zero 1986



edit on 14-10-2016 by Dan00 because:




posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:42 PM
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a reply to: TerryMcGuire

Wow, that's some sumptuous writing. Lovely.



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:50 PM
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Many years later she remembered how her parents had looked to her when she was a small child: her father as tall as a tree, and merry and bright and golden, with her beautiful black-haired mother at his side.
- Deerskin, Robin McKinley


edit on 14-10-2016 by ketsuko because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:50 PM
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“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” ... Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:50 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

How about a bit of Joyce?

“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” -Finnegans Wake



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:51 PM
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I sorta just want to beat Kandzveldt to this one:




I WILL proclaim to the world the deeds of Gilgamesh. This was the man to whom all things were known; this was the king who knew the countries of the world. He was wise, he saw mysteries and knew secret things, he brought us a tale of the days before the flood. He went on a long journey, was weary, worn-out with labour, returning he rested, he engraved on a stone the whole story.

EOG




Have a great nite.




posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:53 PM
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a reply to: ketsuko

Love it ketsuko. Reminded me of another Joyce, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man:

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:54 PM
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a reply to: Dan00

Same to you Dan. Great post from an epic tale.



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:55 PM
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Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:56 PM
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originally posted by: zosimov
a reply to: ketsuko

Love it ketsuko. Reminded me of another Joyce, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man:

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo


I've always liked McKinley. She has some great imagery in her stories. Deerskin is sort of twisted though, not your child's fairy tale for sure.



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:56 PM
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originally posted by: zosimov
a reply to: zosimov

How about a bit of Joyce?

“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” -Finnegans Wake


Don't even go there. We'll be here all night. Have mercy!



She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue. Her head was leaned against the window curtains and in her nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne. She was tired.

-Eveline (1914) James Joyce (1882 - 1941)





posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 09:57 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

Not nearly as lush as Evangeline but still one of my favs is by Earnest Thayer....Casey at the Bat.

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning left to play;
And then, when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 10:01 PM
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“I was arrested in Eno’s diner.”

-Lee Child (Jack Reacher author)
edit on 14-10-2016 by DBCowboy because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 10:05 PM
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I just couldn't leave without first dropping these two by Robert Service.. Scorned by many poets, he is still great to me.

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

The Shooting of Dan McGrew


A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.


And I know it is not the opening lines but here is one more stanza


When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house.
There was none could place the stranger's face, though we searched ourselves for a clue;
But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.



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