Top 5 Tuesday – Top 5 Opening Lines


I love a good opening line. A solid opening paragraph or page is great, but an opening line that sells you on the next 200-500 pages? Magic. When I saw this list topic listed, these 5 jumped to mind—they may not be the best I’ve ever read, but they’re the most memorable.

(I tried, tried, tried to limit myself to the opening line, but I failed on a couple of them, couldn’t help myself.)

5 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

I remember in our English class in High School when we were assigned this book, pretty much no one was interested. When Mr. Russo passed out the paperbacks, a few of us flipped it opened and read these first words—and suddenly we were open to the idea (didn’t last long for all of us, but that’s beside the point, we’re focused on the opening lines here). It’s stuck with me for almost 30 years, that’s gotta say something.

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo….

4
Neuromancer by William Gibson

This sentence was love at first glance for me. Still love it. Naturally, no one knows what color this is referring to anymore.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

3
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Oft-parodied. Oft-imitated. Often-celebrated. Does it get better than this?

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

2
Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Why bother saying anything here?

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

1
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I’ll go on and on about this book next week, so I’ll just keep my trap shut here. But man…there was something about these lines that got into my blood.

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.

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