I know I can’t be the only one who thinks the first sentence of a book is one of the most important. Whenever I pick up a new book, I always read the blurb on the back/inside flaps (unless it’s nothing but review snippets) and the first sentence. If I’m feeling adventurous, I may check out the last one as well.
So. Brief, pointless preamble being over, what are the first sentences of the books you’re currently perusing? I go first.
Kushiel’s Scion by Jacqueline Carey: “What does it mean to be good?” The Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card: “The master computer of the planet Harmony was afraid.”
I am rereading Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox (and everyone should rush out and buy the first book, Dreamhunter, it’s awesome), which starts ''On St Lazarus’s Eve in 1906 over one thousand people were at the Rainbow Opera to share a traditional feast-day dream."
This isn’t actually the first sentence of Dave Duncan’s Present Tense (there is a preamble dealing with First World War stretcher bearers picking up an unexplained stranger in the mud of Flanders) but it’s what I always think of as the first one:
“Two men sat in a garden and talked about Hell. One of them had been there.”
Yes indeed. Hey, I believe I won the “Length of the first sentence” competition!
Anyhow, of course I should have read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll a long time ago, but us non-anglo americans are allowed save a few classics to older age.
For instance, I thougt Catcher in the Rye was pretty good, I suspect mainly because I read in voluntarily and didn’t know it was a Great American Novel You Must Read.
[Edit: Damn! The post above was posted in between me hitting reply, fetching the book, writing, and click Submit. - Didn’t win this either.]
When I’m shopping for books, I look at the back cover and read an excerpt from a random spot inside. I rarely look at the first line. That’s why I was surprised when The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michel Faber, introduced me to a new kind of narrator:
“Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories that you have read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and place altogether.”
Leaving Home: A collection of Lake Wobegon Stories by Garrison Keillor. All the stories begin with “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon,” which is both entirely fitting and completely inappropriate.
The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor. Another collection of short stories/humorous pieces, the first one is called “Address to the National Federation of Associations Convention, Minneapolis, June 12, 1993.” The first line is as follows:
I claim second-place in the longest first line contest.
Both books are hilarious, by the way, if you like Garrison Keillor.
God Damn, am I an idiot. I guess I didn’t read the very short, to-the-point OP. The first sentence of Ivy Briefs is as follows:
“The letter that arrived in the mail on that early December day was thin.”
Of course, due to the thinness of the letter, the author thinks that the law school has rejected her. By the end of the first page, though, she reveals that she was actually accepted, and so ensues her tale of Columbia Law School.