I shared an article on Facebook on Friday morning from the Atlantic Monthly in which various authors reflect upon the importance of a novel having a great and memorable first line.
As an elderly retired guy, I had plenty of time to create my own tentative “Top Ten” of first sentences. The opening line of “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James is not on it, although Dominique Aury’s “Story of O” just missed.
1. “Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure” (“For a long time I would go to bed early”), Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.”
2. “In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.” Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms.”
3. “You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.” Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn.”
4. “I am an American, Chicago born — Chicago, that somber city — and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record of my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.” Saul Bellow’s “The Adventures of Augie March.”
5. “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
6. “Laura was washing the dishes one morning when old Jack, lying in the sunshine on the doorstep, growled to tell her that someone was coming.” Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “By the Shores of Silver Lake.”
7. “So that’s how I came to Argus.” Louise Erdrichs “The Beet Queen.”
8. “Call me Ishmael.” Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”
9. “We were in Study Hall, when the Headmaster entered, followed by a new boy dressed in regular clothes and a school servant carrying a large desk.” Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary.”
10. “I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, in the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father’s house.” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped.”