Sunday, July 26, 2009

First Lines of Favorite Novels

Men can do nothing without the make-believe of a beginning. (Daniel Deronda by George Eliot)

It was a pleasure to burn. (Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury)

In February 1948, the Communist leader Klement Gottwald stepped out on the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague to harangue hundreds of thousands of citizens massed in Old Town Square. (The Book of Laughter and Fogetting by Milan Kundera)

Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him. (The Bell by Iris Murdoch)

One day, I was already old, in the entrance of a public place a man came up to me. (The Lover by Marguerite Duras)

First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. (The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien)

When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along to an FM broadcast of the overture of Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta. (The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami)

In the town there are two mutes and they are always together. (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers)

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. (Waiting by Ha Jin)

A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. (A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole)

The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. (White Noise by Don DeLillo)

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. (100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Jacob Dietmahler was not such a fool that he could not see that they had arrived at his friend’s home on a washday. (The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald)

This movie I’ve been seeing all my life, yet never to its completion. (Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates)

please feel free to chime in...


Jim Murdoch said...

It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach’s Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach. (The Crow Road by Iain Banks)

Laura said...

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. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain)

Jasmine said...

Mother died today..or was it yesterday (The Stranger, Albert Camus)

Anonymous said...

A friend has the need to read the last 10 pages of a novel before beginning. She says she will only read things that have a redeemable ending. I tend to think the reward is the journey in life as it is in a book.

SarahJane said...

love the iain banks line. I read a couple of his books but the second of the two turned me off - can't remember which one it was.

laura - i never read that, or tom sawyer! i share a birthday with mark twain and have always held it against him.

jasmine - that's a great one, too. I've read that book, long ago.

anonymous (bob?), i hate knowing what will happen. i try to avoid reviews as well, because i don't want to start out knowing too much. much less fun than knowing nothing

fleck said...

I am the doctor occasionally mentioned in this story, in unflattering terms. (Zeno's Conscience by Italo Svevo, in William Weaver translation).

Thoroughly enjoyed your list, but am late to the party.

SarahJane said...

Love that one. I read his other book "Confessions of Zeno." (or are they one and the same with different translations of the title?)

Dominic Rivron said...

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.
Finnegans Wake
(I wonder - was I initially attracted to this one because it was like my name?)

So well known, but it's hard to beat "Call me Ishmael" too.

fleck said...

Zeno's Conscience is newer translation of book you read (which reached us via Joyce). Led to a Trieste-Istria 'commodius vicus of recirculation' I can't seem to stop! I'll need to start jotting L.T. in the margins (for Last Trieste). Not sure how that part translated in the version you read, but it still makes me laugh.

SarahJane said...

Dominic -
All of Joyce's lines are noteworthy!
& "Call me Ishmael" indeed packs a punch, but why?

Fleck - i'll have to dig out my copy.

Richard Fox said...

"I am born." from Dickens' "David Copperfield." Of course, that is also the chapter title...

Richard Fox said...

On opening line of "Moby Dick": someone once commented to me that "Call me Ishmael" is the literary equivalent of "You had me at 'hello'"

SarahJane said...

You had me at 'hello'
strikes me as hilarious.
would be a great first line for a novel.

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