“First sentences are doors to worlds,” wrote Ursula Le Guin in her essay "The Fisherwoman’s Daughter".
I have a line for a book flitting through my head. It is inspired by a tree that I see every day when my dog and I walk along the road.
"There's a demon trapped in a maple tree in the woods."
There it is. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it -- if anything, but it keeps twisting around in there, trying to form a story. For now, I'll just keep hurrying past -- particularly when there's fog. Particularly when it's dusk or what my grandmother used to call The Gloaming.
I think the first lines are important. They set the tone for the book. The best have an appealing way of subverting expectations. They can make you crinkle your nose or draw your eyebrows together. They make you want to read more.
Here are some of my favorites.
This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
It was a pleasure to burn. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. 1984 by George Orwell
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 by Jane Austen
It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful. Matilda by Roald Dahl
My mother died today. Or maybe it was yesterday, I don't know. The Stranger by Albert Camus
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. Neuromancer by William Gibson
In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Here is a small fact: You are going to die. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
(Posted Feb 3rd, 2024)