Sunday, June 17, 2012

First sentences…

…from a few of my favorite books:

“The difference between the Parthenon and the World Trade Center, between a French wine glass and a German beer mug, between Bach and John Philip Sousa, between Sophocles and Shakespeare, between a bicycle and a horse, though explicable by historical moment, necessity, and destiny, is before all a difference of imagination.” The Geography of the Imagination, Guy Davenport

"In the 1970s in New York everyone slept till noon." City Boy: My Life in New York in the 1960s and 70s, Edmund White

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

“He awoke, opened his eyes.” The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles

"When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

“Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile;  cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse;  backward in sentiment;  lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow loveable." The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

“These last few days I have thought and thought of the Nordland summer's endless day." Pan, Knut Hamsun

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins." Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

“The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest.” Essays of E.B. White

"A screaming comes across the sky." Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"There was a depression over the Atlantic." The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil

“When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only.” Walden, or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau

“I am unlike other boys." Maltaverne, Francois Mauriac

"I am twenty-six inches tall, shapely and well proportioned, my head is perhaps a trifle too large." The Dwarf, Par Lagerkvist

…and perhaps the best opening sentence in all of literature:

“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." A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens


Parrish Lantern said...

Lo Lee Ta, is a fantastic opening to a fantastic book.

James said...

Fantastic and poetic.