Lit ► Opening Lines & Favorite Passages



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Pelafina

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This is for posting interesting or meaningful or just awesome first lines to books and poems and that sort of thing. Also, because there's not much interest in opening lines, and I really like this thread, I'm extending it to any lines or passages as well.


'A screaming comes across the sky.'
- Gravity's Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon)


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


'The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.'
- The Gunslinger (Stephen King)


'As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.'
- The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)


'April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.'
- The Waste Land (T.S. Eliot)


Doe anyone else have anything to contribute?
 
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Ordeith

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Re: Opening Lines

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." - 1984, George Orwell

I never noticed this line my first time reading the book, but it finally stuck out to me when I reread it a month or two ago.
 

Cinollex

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Re: Opening Lines

"As my exciting story opens, I am being punched in the stomach." - The Time Machine Did It, John Swartzwelder
 

stephaknee

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Re: Opening Lines

Pretty famous:

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked...."
"Howl" Allen Ginsberg
 

Kiba

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Re: Opening Lines

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
1984 (George Orwell)
Someone posted that already.

I WAS sick -- sick unto death with that long agony; and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me.- The Pit and the Pendulum, Edgar Allen Poe.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.- I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, William Wordsworth.
 

Ehres

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Re: Opening Lines

"To the Ultimate Warrior of Peace, of
whom Socrates is but a twinkling reflec-
tion—Who has no name yet many, and Who
is the Source of us all." — Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior

"I am sitting here at the end of all of time and space." — S. Fontaine, Chronicles of The Void: The Ouroboros Complex
 
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Child_of_Light

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
 

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Immediately upon reading this thread, I forgot all of the lines of every book I'd ever read in my life. Fortunately, I have some of those books with me, and so was able to come up with at least two that would readily return to memory.

The only opening line I have ever been able to keep in my head is the exceedingly straightforward, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit," of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (An Unexpected Party).

I'm a huge sucker for Tolkien's language though, so I couldn't help but find another passage, much later in the book, that has never failed to elicit chills as I read it in the story.
"Suddenly there was a great shout, and from the Gate came a trumpet call. They had forgotten Thorin! Part of the wall, moved by levers, fell outward with a crash into the pool. Out leapt the King under the Mountain, and his companions followed him. Hood and cloak were gone; they were in shining armour, and red light leapt from their eyes. In the gloom the great dwarf gleamed like gold in a dying fire.
[...]
'To me! To me! Elves and Men! To me! O my kinsfolk!'
" (The Clouds Burst)

I could list so many more that affected me throughout "The Lord of the Rings," but you get the idea. For another direction, there's an excellent sci-fi/fantasy book by Matthew Woodring Stover titled "Blade of Tyshalle" that does a very clever thing. At the beginning of each chapter, there's a short paragraph or two which seems to be telling its own story in a very halting, non sequitur kind of way. In reading, however, you come to realize that these short 'meta'-passages are telling the same story as the regular prose in a much more symbolic language. One of my favorites of these, from which I took my previous custom title, is the following:

"The sole defender of the part-time goddess was the crooked knight. He was the reflection of knighthood in a cracked mirror, and what he did, he did backward.
The crooked knight wore no armor, and he did not care for swords. He was small and thin, ugly and graceless. He could not ride a warhorse, and no squire would serve him. He was a deceiver, a manipulator, his life built upon a lie.
His strength was the strength of ten, because his heart was stained with corruption.
"
 
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Pelafina

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'He moved north all day and in the long light of the evening he saw from that high rimland the collision of armies remote and silent upon the plain below. The dark little horses circled and the landscape shifted in the paling light and the mountains beyond brooded in darkening silhouette. The distant horsemen rode and parried and a faint drift of smoke passed over them and they moved on up the deepening shade of the valley floor leaving behind them the shapes of mortal men who had lost their lives in that place. He watched all this pass below him mute and ordered and senseless until the warring horsemen were gone in the sudden rush of dark that fell over the desert. All that land lay cold and blue and without definition and the sun shone solely on the high rocks where he stood. He moved on and soon he was in darkness himself and the wind came up off the desert and frayed wires of lightning stood again and again along the western terminals of the world. He made his way along the escarpment until he came to a break in the wall cut through by a canyon running back into the mountains. He stood looking down into this gulf where the tops of the twisted evergreens hissed in the wind and then he started down.'
While I was reading McCarthy's Blood Meridian, (which is amazing and you should go and read), this passage stood out very strongly to me, especially the bit that I bolded. This is one of the most evocative passages I can recall ever reading. It conjures such a remarkable image in my mind.
 

Connie

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The Catcher in the Rye
"[FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]People always think something's all true."
-Holden Caulfield

[/FONT]And from one of my favorite books of all time:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
"Curiouser and curiouser!"
-Alice

"We're all mad here."
-The Cat

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense."
-Alice
 

SamuelVimes

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Entire preface to Dorian Gray is awesome:
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
 

Connie

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Entire preface to Dorian Gray is awesome:
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
<3 Thank you for sharing that. Someone had to do it. It just didn't come to mind for me.
 

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"Carn Carby left, and Ender mentally added him to his private list of people who also qualified as human beings."

-Chapter 11, Ender's Game
 

Pelafina

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While we're quoting Ender's Game, here's another that I really liked.

"Of course we are. It's our job. We're the wicked witch. We promise gingerbread, but we eat the little bastards alive."
 
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"Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler's pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die." - Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
At this point, most things related to Fight Club probably seem overdone. But I still love it.

"West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut." - The Colour Out Of Space, H. P. Lovecraft
Not exactly my favorite Lovecraft story, but I love the opening.

And then there's that giant passage in The Jungle, where Jurgis listens to the Socialist speaker. One paragraph of this speech goes on for three or four pages. It's much too large to post, but I absolutely love it.
 

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"all of us in here are rabbits of varying ages and degrees, hippity-hopping through our Walt Disney world. Oh, don't misunderstand me, we're not in here because we are rabbits--we'd be rabbits wherever we were--we're all in here because we can't adjust to our rabbithood. We need a good strong wolf like the nurse to teach us our place"
 
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