Best Opening Line EVAR

“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. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly – Tom’s Aunt Polly, she is – and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.”

“There are some things Man was not meant to know.”

– Larry Niven, Unfinished Story #2

The rest of the page is blank; the following page starts another story. :D

Well, A Christmas Carol is pretty upbeat, by Dickens’ standards. For what it’s worth, I also like:

“All this happened, more or less.” (Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut)

“The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm.” (Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury)

“The irreducible strangeness of the universe was first made manifest to Anthony Van Horne on his fiftieth birthday, when a despondent angel named Raphael, a being with luminous white wings and a halo that blinked on and off like a neon quoit, appeared and told him of the days to come.” (Towing Jehova, by James Morrow)

I’ve been reading Chandler’s The Big Sleep, and a Qt3 Google search unearthed this thread. I just finished re-reading a bunch of Jorge Luis Borges short stories and always loved this opening sentence from the story The Circular Ruins:

No one saw him disembark from his canoe in the unanimous night, no one saw the bamboo canoe sinking into the sacred mud, but within a few days no one was unaware that the silent man came from the South and that his home was one of the infinite villages upstream, on the violent mountainside, where the Zend tongue is not contaminated with Greek and where leprosy is infrequent.

Borges wrote a lot of great opening lines.

I love the crap out of Borges.

Funes, His Memory:

I recall him (though I have no right to speak that sacred verb—only one man on earth did, and that man
is dead) holding a dark passionflower in his hand, seeing it as it had never been seen, even had it been
stared at from the first light of dawn till the last light of evening for an entire lifetime.

The Aleph:

That same sweltering morning that Beatriz Viterbo died, after an imperious confrontation with her illness in which she
had never for an instant stooped to either sentimentality or fear, I noticed that a new advertisement for some
cigarettes or other (blondes, I believe they were) had been posted on the iron billboards of the Plaza Constitución; the
fact deeply grieved me, for I realized that the vast unceasing universe was already growing away from her, and that
this change was but the first in an infinite series.

Famous, but not good.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo.Lee.Ta.


That’s the opening paragraph but, skipping down a few lines, I think I prefer this:

Beets, baby! The unholy offspring of carrots left abused and beaten by their cherry lovers.

Jesus Christ, mono. Six and a half, years, man. Six and a half years.

“No doubt about it, I’ve been hitting the basil hard tonight.” From Anonymous Rex

That’s how I roll.

I don’t have a copy handy (and Amazon doesn’t have the ability to browse the book), but the opening paragraph of The Stainless Steel Rat is a classic.

Since Gatsby’s been mentioned, and since A Tale of Two Cities has been noted as having a great opening and closing line, let me add one of my favorite closing lines, from Gatsby:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

“Because they had not repented, the angel stabbed the unrepentant couple thirteen times, with its sword.” --Graham Swanson

Yeah, I’m with you, Gatsby is really more about the last line (which is another thread entirely - a thread which should begin and end with the last paragraph of Joyce’s Ulysses).

Ive got fewer ideas for first lines, but how about:
“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.”

“It was a pleasure to burn” - Fahrenheit 451

Oh, and of course:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

–Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

Can’t believe no one’s mentioned that one yet.

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

  • Pride and Prejudice

Though Lolita runs it close…

Worst? There’s a whole competition

The Bulwer-Lytton entries are always way too long-winded, which drains them of the funny. I much prefer the Little Lytton:

How about a QT3 Lytton contest?