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Open Thread: Best Opening Lines?
Dickens, Orwell, Tolkien, Barrie, and Rowling Take the Top 5 Spots. Who Else Deserves a Nod?
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Pretty good description of last week—and also the start of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. A recent poll named it the best opening line of a work of literature. The rest of the top five?
George Orwell, 1984: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan: “All children, except one, grow up.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s [Philosopher’s] Stone: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
All fine, all good. But there’s something missing as far as I’m concerned!
My very favorite opening line of all time? The author was part of the Inklings, the literary group to which Tolkien and C.S. Lewis belonged. But Tolkien would be irked by my suggestion. He never much liked Charles Williams, and I bet he never read this wonderful opening line for himself. His loss.
From Charles Williams’s War in Heaven:
The telephone bell was ringing wildly, but without result, since there was no one in the room but the corpse.
Drama ensues, naturally.
So, that’s my vote for best opening line. My question for you: What’s yours? Leave your favorite opening line in the comments below. Could be from a novel, a nonfiction book, a classic, something recent, anything really. If you’re partial to one of the lines above, say so. If it’s something else, let us know.
What line—or lines—hooked you from the start?
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