I am fascinated by the lure of the first line, and how it grabs the reader. So, I was delighted to find, on Karen's blog, a link to The 100 Best First Lines of Novels. Okay, I thought, let's see the genii in action!
Now, this might be supreme ignorance, or supreme arrogance (and I'm happy for you to tell me which), but having read the whole list, I thought just a few of them priceless, and the rest utter crap.
My favourites (in no particular order) were:
• "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." - George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
• "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." - Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
• "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." - C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
• "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." - Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)
• "Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law." - William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own (1994)
• "I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as “Claudius the Idiot,” or “That Claudius,” or “Claudius the Stammerer,” or “Clau-Clau-Claudius” or at best as “Poor Uncle Claudius,” am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the “golden predicament” from which I have never since become disentangled." - Robert Graves, I, Claudius
My don't-get-'ems were (amongst many others too boring to include here):
• "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." - James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)
• Where now? Who now? When now?" - Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable (1953)
• Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement . . . [blah blah blah]" - Walter Abish, Alphabetical Africa (1974)
Now, call me shallow and poorly-read, but I think Dick Francis always writes a great first line:
"I could think of three good reasons for not going to Moscow, one of which was twenty-six, blonde, and upstairs unpacking her suitcase." Trial Run
And can anyone tell me why Herman Melville's opening to Moby Dick, "Call me Ishmael" (which I have seen on several 'best first-line' lists this evening) should be considered a good opening? I'm still scratching my head over that one.
What are your favourite/least favourite first lines?
Any of you prepared to reveal your own first line(s)?