Saturday, October 2, 2010

One Hundred Best First Lines

The American Book Review has posted what they consider to be the best 100 opening lines. Guess who is in the top ten? But here is my favorite:

In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there was to be found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talented, and yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point. —John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor (1960)

Thanks to Vic at Jane Austen's World  for finding this.


  1. Opening lines of books are so important, I think, as are the last sentences, if you ask me, because the last sentence makes a story reverberate inside you a while longer. I knew Jane Austen would make the list!:)

    But the funny things is, the best opening lines seem to belong to books that I personally didn't enjoy. I have no idea what that means. Perhaps I can't enjoy certain classics or perhaps bad books always have good opening lines.;)

  2. I absolutely agree with the opening lines of "Pride and Prejudice" being number 2. But I am shocked . . . shocked, I tell you! . . . that the opening line of Daphne DuMaurier's brilliant "Rebecca" was not mentioned. Travesty!


  3. Lori, I agree with you, so we shall correct the oversight: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." ~ Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

  4. Irena, There are a lot of "great" books that did not "speak" to me. I could never get into most of the great Southern writers, such as Faulkner and Eudora Welty. Also, Moby Dick was a long hard slog, but I was determined to finish it. It's just a matter of taste.

  5. Good to know Jane Austen comes up so high in the list!

    My Darcy Mutates…