Writing is easy. Saying something important is the tough part. Today, as we celebrate National Book Lovers Day, we review classic opening lines from novelists we all know. If your goal is to get readers to read your work—first one must get their attention (that’s the easy part). Sustaining interest until the last page is daunting and for the madding crowd of unpublished novelists: near impossible.
Authors listed here, we salute you on Book Lovers Day by bathing you in envy.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only...” --Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities.
“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new...” –Samuel Beckett, “Murphy”
“Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space...” –Margaret Atwood, A Cat’s Eye
“America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets. You can’t ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can’t lose what you lacked at conception...” --James Ellroy, American Tabloid
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there...” –L.P Hartley, The Go Between.
“The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it...” --V. S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River.
“Lolita, light of my life, the 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...” –Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in bed into a gigantic insect...” –Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis
“I am a sick man. I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man...”
--Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen...” --
George Orwell, 1984
“Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him...” --Graham Greene, Brighton Rock
“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms...” –Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man.”
“Justice? You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law...” –William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own.
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way...” —Leo Tolstoy, “Anna Karenina”