Monday, September 26, 2005

For Starters

Writing this morning's post, I was sorely tempted to include a list of my other favourite openings, but finally decided to leave well enough alone. Except that now Veena has suggested posting favourite openings, and I can't resist. So here goes - some familiar classics, some not so much:

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice:

"It is a fact universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife."

T. S. Eliot's Wasteland:

"April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain."

Albert Camus' L'etranger

"Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I had a telegram from home: 'Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.' That doesn't mean anything. It may have happened yesterday."

Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" (note: translations of this line vary, but this is the one that I like the best)

Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."

George Orwell's 1984

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen"

Ernest Hemingway's Old man and the Sea

"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish"

And that hoariest old chestnut of all:

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

Plus a few personal favourites:

The entire first chapter of Philip Roth's Deception.

Carson McCullers' Clock without hands

"Death is always the same, but every man dies in his own way. For J.T. Malone, it began in such a simple ordinary way that for a time he confused the end of life with the beginning of a new season."

Dostovevsky's Notes from Underground

"I am a sick man. I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man."

Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier

"This is the saddest story I have ever heard."

And finally, as Ozymandiaz mentions in the the comment to the last post:

Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun."

"Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."


Veena said...

Great list. But you have to stop now. Leave a couple for other people too :)

Ludwig said...

And one for you

Oh ye who tread the Narrow Way
By Tophet-flare to Judgment Day,
Be gentle when the heathen pray
To Buddha at Kamakura!

He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam- Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher—the Wonder House, as the natives call the Lahore Museum. Who hold Zam-Zammah, that "fire-breathing dragon," hold the Punjab; for the great green-bronze piece is always first of the conqueror’s loot.

Perhaps not the most politically correct book of all time, but if you read it before your political sensitivities were born, it aint so bad.

TDREC said...

A favorite of mine:

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta"

Falstaff said...

ludwig: Hmmm...never really been into Kipling much - aside from his politics, think the man is a little overblown. Not my thing.

tdrec: Yes. Oh, yes. I wonder if that long, gorgeous poem at the beginning of Pale Fire counts as an opening?

Falstaff said...

oh, and bizarre as it is to be posting comments on my own blog, the other incredible opening, is, of course, Vikram Seth's Golden Gate. You don't even have to get to page one - the section about the Author alone is enough to get you hooked!

Veena said...

How in the world did I not think of Golden Gate? It used to be my most favorite opening lines ever! Old age is showing, I guess :(

Falstaff said...

Veena: Ya, I know. I'm still kicking myself for not thinking of it first thing.