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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, 15 2016 @ 02:20 AM
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a reply to: Dan00

Snap


a reply to: zosimov



"See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves. His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost."


That's a great start to a novel. The Road was good with a few baggy parts that encouraged me to skip a page or two. I was considering buying Blood Meridian just now and was repelled by two words, 'epic western.'


If I found it in the airport or in a hotel room, I'd give it a go. Epic and western are two terms that tend to dissuade me from even looking at a book.

One more for the opening lines topic:

'Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim with girded loins who appeared during that young novice's Lenten fast in the desert.'

It's a hook even if it's no indicator of the quality novel that follows. Like many favourites, it takes a jaded view of humanity and reflects the ever-present conflict between residual, dominant and emerging ideologies. A Canticle for Leibowitz. - Walter M. Miller Jr.


edit on 10.15.2016 by Kandinsky because: (no reason given)




posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 03:42 AM
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Quiet possibly my all time favorite young adult novel, Speak, had a very alluring opener:

It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new note-books, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache.

Also this little paragraph from Carmilla captivates me everytime I read it.

She used to place her pretty arms about my neck, draw me to her, and laying her cheek to mine, murmur with her lips near my ear, "Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness; if your dear heart is wounded, my wild heart bleeds with yours. In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die--die, sweetly die--into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love; so, for a while, seek to know no more of me and mine, but trust me with all your loving spirit." And when she had spoken such a rhapsody, she would press me more closely in her trembling embrace, and her lips in soft kisses gently glow upon my cheek.
edit on 15-10-2016 by DarkestConspiracyMoon because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 03:45 AM
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a reply to: zosimov

"It was a dark and stormy night...."

Snoopy



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 04:40 AM
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"i start to get the feeling that something is really wrong"

elizabeth wurtzel from prozac nation



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 05:05 AM
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a reply to: olaru12


We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a little bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive" when all of a sudden there was a terrible roar and all around us the sky was full of what looked like huge bat-like creatures, all swooping, and screeching, and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming "Holy Jesus! What are these Goddamn animals?" Then it was silent,

Hunter S. Thompson - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream

That is the bestest opening ever! And that is my recollection of the opening (I think it was the first five paragraphs I kind of memorized). I may be off on the sequence but I am pretty sure that is right. I may have it more conversational rather than the book.

 



Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crisscrossed.[

James Joyce - Ulysses

This is probably my favorite opening line to any novel



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 05:08 AM
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a reply to: zosimov

Don't know the first. The second is fromthe greatest first chapter in English literature, bar none. The pity and the tragedy of the Dust Bowl in four pages. I'm getting chicken skin just thinking of it now.



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 05:11 AM
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a reply to: Kandinsky

Fiat Homo. Not the name of a metrosexual Italian small car.



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 06:39 AM
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I don't think anyone has mentioned a couple of real classics of "first lines";


All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
Leo Tolstoy, "Anna Karenina".


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife
Jane Austen, "Pride and Prejudice".

Nabokov also provides some classic examples of last lines, which could be another thread.
Lolita;
First line

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins

Last line

And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita

Invitation to a Beheading;
First line

In accordance with the law the death sentence was announced to Cincinnatus C. in a whisper

Last line

Cincinnatus made his way in that direction where, to judge by the voices, stood beings akin to him

The Defence;
First line

What struck him most was the fact that from Monday on he would be Luzhin

Last line

The door was burst in. "Alexandr Ivanovich, Alexandr Ivanovish", roared several voices.
But there was no Alexandr Ivanovich


And from "Pale Fire";

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the window-pane

Not the first line of the novel, but the beginning of the eponymous poem within the novel (which ought to be in all modern anthologies).


edit on 15-10-2016 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 06:56 AM
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A couple of really good examples from older literature;

I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were both in duty equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me.

Laurence Sterne, "Tristram Shandy".
The narrator is talking about a serious lapse of concentration, but takes four chapters to explain (in very indirect terms) how the two parties were at fault.


Considering our present state of culture, and how the Torch of Science has now been brandished and borne about, with more or less effect, for five thousand years and upwards; how in these times especially, not only the Torch still burns, and perhaps more fiercely than ever, but innumerable Rushlights and Sulphur-matches, kindled thereat, are also glancing in every direction, so that not the smallest cranny or doghole in Nature or Art can remain unilluminated- it might strike the reflective mind with some surprise that hitherto little or nothing of a fundamental character, whether in the way of Philosophy or History, has been written on the subject of Clothes.

Thomas Carlyle, "Sartor Resartus".
This sentence introduces the incomparable biography of the revered Herr Professor Diogenes Teufelsdrockh, late Professor of Things-in-general at the University of Weissnichtwo.

edit on 15-10-2016 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 09:01 AM
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"December's not only the worst time to get fired, it's kind of a horse# month anyhow. They should have Christmas in April and New Year's in May." - Neal Morgan



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 09:19 AM
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"Call me Bandit.
" Okay, hopefully that's, like, the last time I'm going to make a literary reference. But you never know. Beware . . . bewaaare . . ." - John Ringo



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 09:28 AM
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Sorry, I must do the whole first paragraph for this one . . .

"Colin Ferguson woke up with a hangover, alone in an unfamiliar double bed. Not the best way to start the morning. 'F*#k,' he muttered, and sat up. Moving made his headache worse. Even the quiet four-letter word seemed too d@*n loud, always a bad sign. The inside of his mouth tasted as if something had died in there a week ago." - Harry Turtledove



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 09:28 AM
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dp
edit on 10152016 by JDeLattre89 because: double post



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 10:26 AM
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originally posted by: Kandinsky

That's a great start to a novel. The Road was good with a few baggy parts that encouraged me to skip a page or two. I was considering buying Blood Meridian just now and was repelled by two words, 'epic western.'


If I found it in the airport or in a hotel room, I'd give it a go. Epic and western are two terms that tend to dissuade me from even looking at a book.



I'm with you on the words "epic western." Nothing about those words, isolated or (especially) combined is appealing!

I'd say it's less of an "epic western" and more of a fictional depiction of the bloody conquest of the American west, written in gorgeous prose.. if that helps. Not the one to read if you're looking to celebrate the finer qualities of human nature! One can find Biblical references, allusion to Paradise Lost and a great similitude to Moby Dick strewn throughout. Bleak, but great book.



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 10:34 AM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Great contributions! I considered using the first line of Lolita (one poster did mention this and Karenina), but it didn't strike me in the same way as the subsequent sentences did:

My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue making a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three on the teeth.

The last lines would definitely make another great thread! Have you read Bend Sinister? Please do, if you haven't already.




posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 10:41 AM
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And speaking of Paradise Lost:

Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepard, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the heav'ns and earth
Rose out of Chaos: or if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to advent'rous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.

And what about Dante?

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
for the straightforward pathway had been lost.


Great responses from all!! Thanks to each of you who has taken the time to enrich this thread.



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 10:44 AM
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originally posted by: zosimov
Have you read Bend Sinister? Please do, if you haven't already.

All his novels are on my shelves. Have been since college days.



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 10:46 AM
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originally posted by: Astyanax
a reply to: zosimov

Don't know the first. The second is fromthe greatest first chapter in English literature, bar none. The pity and the tragedy of the Dust Bowl in four pages. I'm getting chicken skin just thinking of it now.


You and me both. From the first to the last, that book is flawless. The last lines are my favorite conclusion to any book, ever.



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 10:49 AM
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"You don't know about me without you have read a book called 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,' but that ain't no matter." - Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)



posted on Oct, 15 2016 @ 10:53 AM
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And I found this particular book lying around in the platoon room once upon a time with the following note written on the first page: "Please read this and then leave it for others to enjoy some dry British humour everywhere." I left the book in the USO in Germany about three months later.

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun." - Douglas Adams



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