135 Comments
Sep 29, 2023Liked by Joel J Miller

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. " - C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. A perfect introduction to the character.

Expand full comment
author

Someone else on Facebook just mentioned the same line! It’s impishly funny.

Expand full comment
Sep 29, 2023Liked by Joel J Miller

Indeed! I think the whole book might be the funniest of the Chronicles overall, though perhaps with stiff competition from anything Puddleglum-related in The Silver Chair; that might be why those two have always been my favorites.

Expand full comment

As we’re heading into that time of year then probably :-

“Marley was dead, to begin with”

Expand full comment
author

Another Dickens!

Expand full comment

A strong contender!

Expand full comment

Yes! One of the most underrated Opening Lines!

Expand full comment

There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there.

Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

Expand full comment
author

Such a weird and fun book.

Expand full comment

I love this, from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: "Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians. They met upon the third Wednesday of every month and read each other long, dull papers upon the history of English magic."

It sets the tone perfectly! But there is nothing like the opening of Pride and Prejudice:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

Expand full comment
author

Yes, Austen’s opener sets the stage perfectly.

I’ve heard great things about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell but haven’t dipped my toes in those waters yet.

Expand full comment

I hope that if you do read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell you enjoy it! It's a marvelous book. On a side note, I love that you included an opening line from Charles Williams as your favourite! Judging from that sentence, I need to put more of his books on my TBR.

Expand full comment
author

War in Heaven is pretty great. It’s my favorite. All of his novels are weird, but they’re so fantastical, you’re like “Where did he get this?” the whole time you’re reading. Many Dimensions is excellent, as is The Great Trumps. C.S. Lewis got the idea for Asian after reading The Place of the Lion.

Expand full comment

I read Descent into Hell in school, and it was the weirdest thing I read that year or the next. I could tell it was brilliant while being fairly sure that most of it was going over my head (time for a re-read, probably)! I'll definitely check out War in Heaven next.

Expand full comment
author

Pretty cool you got to read that in school!

Expand full comment

It was actually recommended to me by one of my professors. It was early in the year, so I could still keep up with the list of books he was suggesting I read!

Expand full comment

Thinking of more contemporary titles, I love this one:

"History has failed us, but no matter."

From Min Jin Lee's Pachinko.

Expand full comment
author

Claude, that just stabs you, doesn’t it? We all feel let down or even failed at some level, but there’s nothing much to do but get on with it.

Expand full comment
Sep 29, 2023Liked by Joel J Miller

“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.“

Expand full comment
author

“Dead as a doornail” is pretty danged dead. Now that two people have mentioned this one, I’m thinking of adding A Christmas Carol to my classic novel goal as a bonus read for December.

Expand full comment
Sep 29, 2023Liked by Joel J Miller

Please do add A Christmas Carol! This was going to be my favorite opening line, but since it's been mentioned -- I have others!

Expand full comment
author

Do tell!

Expand full comment

"It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression 'As pretty as an airport" Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea Time of the soul

Expand full comment
author

Adams was a genius.

Expand full comment

I've been re reading his Dirk Gently series recently which I consider his best work

Expand full comment
author

I’ve never read those!

Expand full comment

Oh you must. If you enjoyed hitchhikes guide you will love dirk gently which are much more grown up in town and language and perhaps even more clever. Basically his comedic tribute to the noire genre. Can’t recommend enough

Expand full comment

😂

Expand full comment
Sep 29, 2023Liked by Joel J Miller

"WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years." From "A Rose for Emily", by William Faulkner. This is a fun thread - I was going to pick the Eustace Scrubb line, but someone beat me to it!

Expand full comment
author

That’s hilarious. And, yes, that Eustace Scrubb has his fans!

Expand full comment

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." Stephen King - The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

I have my favorites. :)

Expand full comment
author

Great opener. There’s a whole story in that sentence.

Expand full comment

Has no one mentioned Pride and Prejudice? I also put in a vote for Anna Karenina

Expand full comment
author

Not yet! Let no suggestion remain unspoken!

Expand full comment

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

~ One Hundred Years of Solitude

Expand full comment
author

The beginning and the end—all right there.

Expand full comment
Sep 29, 2023Liked by Joel J Miller

My all-time favorite is Lewis’ “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” but since it has already been mentioned, here is my number 2: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”

Expand full comment
author

It’s funny you mentioned that. I just heard someone reference it yesterday. What’s so brilliant about that line is that if you lived anytime before the digital transition, you know exactly what that looks like. It’s a universal metaphor just sitting there, and Gibson was the first to think of it.

Expand full comment

Neuromancer is on my list to read, and now this makes me even more eager.

Expand full comment

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta"

Immediately, we know we're in the hands of a master stylist.

robertsdavidn.subsytack.com/about

Expand full comment
author

That’ll pull you in!

Expand full comment
Sep 29, 2023Liked by Joel J Miller

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Anna Karenina

It's has so much depth in just one sentence.

Expand full comment
author

One of those lines that conjures 14 examples that prove the case.

Expand full comment

I'd be remiss if I didn't show the love for one of my favorite epic fantasy series of all time - The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. Not only is the line fantastic, but it serves as the opening for every single book in the series, the only changes coming at the end that indicate where the wind is originating and what lands it's blowing through, which usually gives a bit of an indication as to at least some of the key locations for the plot of each book. Even if only in a vague sense.

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the..."

-Robert Jordan , The Wheel of Time

Expand full comment
author

When I worked at a used bookstore in Roseville, Calif., I shelved an awful lot of Robert Jordan. People couldn’t get enough.

Expand full comment
Sep 29, 2023·edited Sep 29, 2023Liked by Joel J Miller

"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink'. Who could resist this opener from Dodie Smith in I Capture the Castle? Apart from which, when I was a very little girl, I remember being bathed in the kitchen sink, so this caught me straight away.

"The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there." So romantic from LP Hartley's The Go-Between. Thoughtful, almost rueful. To be honest, I think it presages a much better book than the one it's in.

Expand full comment
author

I love that line from Hartley’s Go-Between and think about it often.

Expand full comment