Thursday, November 11, 2010

Famous First Lines

American Book Review recently posted a list of the best 100 first lines from novels. I'm not sure why there are so many non-American books given the publication's name but I'll cut them slack on that one. But did the list need to have so many dead white men? It's practically a list of the English Literary canon - circa 1990. Really, THREE Joyces? Only 21 women and no Brontes? Here's my favorite first line ever. What's yours?

"Captain Ahab was neither my first husband, nor my last."

Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund


Teacher/Learner said...

I agree that the list gives some obvious examples but I guess they have to or no one would recognize any :D My favourite would have to be: "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).

Christy said...

Lists of best first lines often seem to be mostly just lists of the first lines of famous books. This list has some good ones though such as the one by C.S. Lewis. I like the ones that give you the sense of the narrator's voice straight-off.

Deborah Batterman said...
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Deborah Batterman said...

While it's hard to quibble over a list that includes two of my all-time favorite first lines (#2 Jane Austen; #6 Leo Tolstoy), choosing 'bests' is a generally arbitrary exercise, fun as it is to indulge in. That being said, I'll add another great, timely first line, from Kate Walbert's A Short HIstory of Women: "Mum starved herself for suffrage, Grandmother claiming it was just like Mum to take a cause too far."

Anonymous said...

Too hard to choose my favorite. I love the line from CS Lewis and also, as a fan of Bulwer-lytton contest, the classic line from his work.

I am excited that Sena Jeter Naslund is coming to our local college to speak about women in fiction.