Sunday, May 10, 2009

the first cut is the deepest

I often find myself excited by the first sentence of a book, each word a stolen glance , an invitation even. When I came upon this site, my inner bookworm got kind of worked up. The American Book Review has created a list of some of the best one-liners of all time. The following are my favorites. Feel free to peruse the whole thing here.

5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. � Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. � Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

10. I am an invisible man. � Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

16. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. � J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

20. 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)

37. Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. � Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

38. All this happened, more or less. � Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

45. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. � Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome (1911)

50. I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. � Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)

92. He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. � Raphael Sabatini, Scaramouche (1921)


  1. Oh yes, I agree. Some lines slay me. Also reminded me of something I heard on NPR once - more first lines, if you're interested:

  2. Great first lines are one thing, but I can't tell you how many first lines gave me the "ehh" reaction, but the story proved to be excellent!

  3. The first page of Deadeye Dick is what did it for me. I must have re-read it 100 times before turning to page 2.