Favorite literary opening lines

cicerone imposter
Reply Thu 11 Aug, 2016 09:12 pm
For those interested in the translation.
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 09:52 am
Then of course there was this one:

. When I was a small boy at the beginning of the century I remember an old man who wore knee-breeches and worsted stockings, and used to hobble about the streets of our village with a stick. He must have been getting on for eighty in the year 1807, earlier than which date I suppose I can hardly remember him, for I was born in 1802.. from The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler.

The first time I attempted reading the above, I was rather uninterested and abandoned the read, instead picking out bits and pieces in order to assemble a paper for a high school pshych class I was taking. Years later I gave it another try and was so taken by it I devoured the text. I then went on to read other works by Mr. Butler and enjoyed them as well.

(makes me wonder if there's still hope for Paton's Cry The Beloved Country)
Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 11:42 am
"There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess -- I'm the guy who can get it for you."

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 11:55 am
I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child
on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.

The Left Hand of Darkness
~Ursula K. Le Guin
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 12:11 pm
First lines of The Art Of Racing In The Rain (a book I just plain love by Garth Stein)

Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And while I occasionally step over the line and into the world of the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively. In order to make my point understood without question. I have no words I can rely on because, much to my dismay, my tongue was designed long and flat and loose, and therefore, is a horribly ineffective tool for pushing food around my mouth while chewing, and an even less effective tool for making clever and complicated polysyllabic sounds that can be linked together to form sentences. And that's why I am here now waiting for Denny to come home - he should be here soon - lying on the cool tiles of the kitchen floor in a puddle of my own urine.

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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 01:06 pm
Ah! Now I’ve done Philosophy,
I’ve finished Law and Medicine, 355
And sadly even Theology:
Taken fierce pains, from end to end.
Now here I am, a fool for sure!
No wiser than I was before:
Master, Doctor’s what they call me, 360
And I’ve been ten years, already,
Crosswise, arcing, to and fro,
Leading my students by the nose,
And see that we can know - nothing!
It almost sets my heart burning. 365
I’m cleverer than all these teachers,
Doctors, Masters, scribes, preachers:
I’m not plagued by doubt or scruple,
Scared by neither Hell nor Devil –
Instead all Joy is snatched away, 370
What’s worth knowing, I can’t say,
I can’t say what I should teach
To make men better or convert each.
And then I’ve neither goods nor gold,
No worldly honour, or splendour hold: 375
Not even a dog would play this part!
So I’ve given myself to Magic art,
To see if, through Spirit powers and lips,
I might have all secrets at my fingertips.
And no longer, with rancid sweat, so, 380
Still have to speak what I cannot know:
That I may understand whatever
Binds the world’s innermost core together,
See all its workings, and its seeds,
Deal no more in words’ empty reeds. 385
O, may you look, full moon that shines,
On my pain for this last time:
So many midnights from my desk,
I have seen you, keeping watch:
When over my books and paper, 390
Saddest friend, you appear!
Ah! If on the mountain height
I might stand in your sweet light,
Float with spirits in mountain caves,
Swim the meadows in twilight’ waves, 395
Free from the smoke of knowledge too,
Bathe in your health-giving dew!
Alas! In this prison must I stick?
This hollow darkened hole of brick,
Where even the lovely heavenly light 400
Shines through stained glass, dull not bright.
Hemmed in, by heaps of books,
Piled to the highest vault, and higher,
Worm eaten, decked with dust,
Surrounded by smoke-blackened paper, 405
Glass vials, boxes round me, hurled,
Stuffed with Instruments thrown together,
Packed with ancestral lumber –
This is my world! And what a world!
And need you ask why my heart 410
Makes such tremors in my breast?
Why all my life-energies are
Choked by some unknown distress?
Smoke and mildew hem me in,
Instead of living Nature, then, 415
Where God once created Men,
Bones of creatures, and dead limbs!
Fly! Upwards! Into Space, flung wide!
Isn’t this book, with secrets crammed,
From Nostradamus’ very hand, 420
Enough to be my guide?
When I know the starry road,
And Nature, you instruct me,
My soul’s power, you shall flow,
As spirits can with spirits be. 425
Useless, this dusty pondering here
To read the sacred characters:
Soar round me, Spirits, and be near:
If you hear me, then answer!
(He opens the Book, and sees the Symbol of the Macrocosm.)

Goethe, Faust, Part One
Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 01:39 pm
"The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play."
- Dr. Seuss
Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 01:59 pm
There was time when I had most of the blessed book down by heart.
Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 02:54 pm
this book reminds me of when I was very young - not sure how old, but I stayed over night at my cousins and my aunt read us that book (not that I hadn't heard it before) which she of course replaced the names of the kids with us. And yes it was appropriate in that we did get in a lot of trouble that day together.

I think we were more like thing one and thing two though rather than the kids.

That line always brings me back.
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 03:06 pm
Made me laugh, I learned that sooooo long ago.
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 03:08 pm
I think I read the Paton, while being bored (forget why).
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 03:14 pm
Thanks for that - I've read Goethe's travel book on Italy, natch, but not, uh, his regular stuff. Now I'm interested...
Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 03:24 pm
Part One of Faustus is highly readable and is one of my top favorite books. Part Two is great also, but a tough read for me. But it is all worth it once you reach the end.
cicerone imposter
Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 05:21 pm
I really enjoyed Les Miz for all the memorable quotes from it.

I met a singer actress from London, Lindsay Hamilton, while on a cruise. She has done solo shows on Les Miz in London, and have also directed musicals.

I took my sister and my niece to see Les Miz in Washington DC at the Kennedy Center, and really loved the show, so when I returned to California, I treated my wife and sister in law to go see the show in San Francisco. When our son was home with his fiancee, I treated them to go see the show.
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 10:47 pm
Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words, and suffer noble sorrows. Of these obscure heroes, philosophers, and martyrs, the greater part will never be known till that hour, when many that are great shall be small, and the small great; but of others the world's knowledge may be said to sleep: their lives and characters lie hidden from nations in the annals that record them. The general reader cannot feel them, they are presented so curtly and coldly: they are not like breathing stories appealing to his heart, but little historic hail-stones striking him but to glance off his bosom: nor can he understand them; for epitomes are not narratives, as skeletons are not human figures.
Thus records of prime truths remain a dead letter to plain folk: the writers have left so much to the imagination, and imagination is so rare a gift. Here, then, the writer of fiction may be of use to the public—as an interpreter.
There is a musty chronicle, written in intolerable Latin, and in it a chapter where every sentence holds a fact. Here is told, with harsh brevity, the strange history of a pair, who lived untrumpeted, and died unsung, four hundred years ago; and lie now, as unpitied, in that stern page, as fossils in a rock. Thus, living or dead, Fate is still unjust to them. For if I can but show you what lies below that dry chronicler's words, methinks you will correct the indifference of centuries, and give those two sore-tried souls a place in your heart—for a day.

Charles Reade, The Cloister and the Hearth
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 11:03 pm

Sorry, I do not understand

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Reply Sat 13 Aug, 2016 04:15 am
I do not possess the keen intelligence or refined literary skills to truly appreciate the sublime wit evidenced by many of the classic giants of literature: authors who, by sheer mental prowess, were able to make any sentence brighter and multifaceted by imbuing it with such meaning, that multiple readings would in fact be needed to even start unraveling the mysteries within.

Perhaps I lack the patience too.

One of my favorite authors (heck, just my favorite author period) is Dan Simmons. Two opening lines stand out for me:
'On the day the Armada went to war, on the last day of life as we knew it, I was invited to a party.'
That's the opening line from 'The fall of Hyperion'.

The second one is in all likelihood not original. I still enjoy it though, and I never bothered to look up the original. Still, in 'Endymion', he starts of simply with: 'You are reading this for the wrong reason.' I like that sort of direct communication with the reader. It doesn't really tell all that much yet of the story, but the next sentence is better: 'If you are reading this to learn what it is like to make love to a messiah - our messiah - then you should not read on, because you are little more than a voyeur.'

And I was hooked.
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Reply Sat 13 Aug, 2016 06:13 am
Here is Edward Bear coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back
of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way
of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another
way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he
feels that perhaps there isn't.

Winnie the Pooh
~A.A. Milne
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Reply Sat 13 Aug, 2016 08:49 am
I was listening to the BBC early this morning, starting at around 2 am. There was a story about Sudan and its relationship with Israel. They mentioned Bibi Netanyhu, who was born in Sudan, and his recent visit there.
In the report they made reference to a local fable that, in the words of the translater, began ...


Those must be, I thought, the most commonly used words to start tales.
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Reply Sat 13 Aug, 2016 09:31 am
AS Mr. John Oakhurst, gambler, stepped into the main street of Poker Flat on the morning of the twenty-third of November, 1850, he was conscious of a change in its moral atmosphere since the preceding night. Two or three men, conversing earnestly together, ceased as he approached, and exchanged significant glances. There was a Sabbath lull in the air, which, in a settlement unused to Sabbath influences, looked ominous.
Bret Harte, The Outcasts of Poker Flat
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