Thursday, February 23, 2006


The New York Times reports that the current issue of The American Book Review will include a list of the 100 best first lines in novels, as chosen by a group of experts and fans.

The top five:

"Call me Ishmael."
-- "Moby-Dick," by Herman Melville (1851)

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
-- "Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen (1813)

"A screaming comes across the sky."
-- "Gravity's Rainbow," by Thomas Pynchon (1973)

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
-- "One Hundred Years of Solitude," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967)

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins."
-- "Lolita," Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

Except for the troubling fact that I can't get through even "The Crying of Lot 49" (and I'm sure it's just me)," let alone the tome that is "Gravity's Rainbow" (that may be mostly me, but I gotta give him a little blame for the density factor), it's hard to argue against any of these great book-starters.

One of my favorites is this one from Pat Conroy's "The Prince of Times," a lyrical, sometimes overwrought, novel about growing up in the Carolinas:

"My wound is geography."

What's your favorite first line of a novel? Drop us a note.

- Michael K.


Anonymous said...

"The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." Stephen King's The Gunslinger

Callistor said...

"It was a pleasure to burn." Ray Bradbury's _Fahrenheit 451_.

Callistor said...

It was a pleasure to burn. - Ray Bradbury's _Fahrenheit 451_

TBPAC said...

Ah, the Gunslinger series. Twas sad to see that series finally close, but rewarding to finally get to the Tower. -- Michael K

TBPAC said...

And as for Bradbury, he's one of my favorites. I especially liked "The Martian Chronicles." There also was a fat book that had all of his short stories in it. That was a pure treat. I had a chance to interview Bradbury in the mid-80s, right about the time that the movie version of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" was released. British actor Jonathan Pryce played Mr. Dark. Pryce is most famous as The Engineer in the Broadway production of "Miss Saigon." And he's back on Broadway now, replacing John Lithgow in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." And just to bring it back home, the road production of that show plays Tampa in 06-07. -- Michael K