Monday, July 29, 2013

"None of the merry-go-rounds seem to work anymore."

A line by John Gregory Dunne, chosen by author S. J. Rozan as his favorite opening line ever written.  The Atlantic has a list, including choices by Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen.

Most of them don't impress me much, though I like that one, and the Hemingway.  But I guess that the success of a first line is tied pretty closely to what comes after.  Mine is the opening line of The Good Soldier: "This is the saddest story I've ever heard."  But if you haven't read the book, you can't fully grasp the sad irony of that line, can you?

What about you guys?  What's your favorite opening line?

4 comments:

Brent Waggoner said...

That Good Soldier one is great.

It's not very literary, but Stephen King's The Gunsligner has a really compelling first line:

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

Blood Meridian: "See the child" and the last line, "He says that he will never die."

Brittany said...

I had to rummage through my bookshelves to find one I thought was really exceptional - this isn't something I keep in my head all the time.

"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love." - Love in the Time of Cholera

(GGM really has a knack for these lines. "The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of wild night of love with an adolescent virgin." - Memoirs of My Melancholy Whores)

Brent Waggoner said...

One Thousand Yeas of Solitude also has a great one:

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

R.M. Fiedler said...

I'm going to think about this longer to really decide which is my favorite; nonetheless, two first lines came to mind immediately as candidates. Both Nabokov:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure of the windowpane . . . .

The second one I memorized almost immediately after reading and used when I was in China at "English Corner." English Corner was this cafe thing where English-speaking foreigners would hang out with natives so the natives could practice their English. All the foreigners had their photos taken and got to fill out a piece of paper introducing themselves/saying nice things about China/English Corner. The entire thing would then get stuck onto the walls of the cafe. Mine was something like: Eddy (guy who ran English Corner), Thanks for hosting English Corner, it has been a lot of fun. I was the shadow of the waxwing slain By the false azure of the windowpane. The food and coffee here is really good. I look forward to coming back. --Randy

Yup. I was that guy.