first line rundown

V.21 No.26 | 6/28/2012


First line rundown pt. 7

Novel openings, continued

“Aliens suck at music.”

Year Zero, Rob Reid

“We arrived in an undignified heap of witch and vampire.”

Shadow of Night, Deborah Harkness

“They were hanging white folks in Louisiana and shooting black folks in Richmond.”

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, Stephen L. Carter

“Lin Daiyu crushes apricot kernels and black sesame seeds in a marble mortar.”

The Red Chamber, Pauline A. Chen

“It felt like the first morning of spring.”

—The Crowded Grave, Martin Walker

“ ‘Oh mon dieu,’ Cloquet said, when he opened the lodge door and saw me on the floor.”

-Talulla Rising, Glen Duncan

V.21 No.24 | 6/14/2012


First line rundown pt. 6

More openers to new novels

“Here is the first thing you need to know about me: I’m a barefoot girl from red-dirt Oklahoma, and all the marble floors in the world will never change that.”

In the Kingdom of Men, Kim Barnes

“At first glance, she mistook him for something else.”

Inside, Alix Ohlin

“Her steps were leaden as though La Llorona rose from the dead, which indeed she had.”

The Witch Narratives: Reincarnation, Belinda Vasquez Garcia

“I keep the Beast running, I keep the 100 low lead on tap, I foresee attacks.”

The Dog Stars, Peter Heller

“The lights go out.”

The Undertow, Jo Baker

“Lord God is talking again.”

The Bird Saviors, William J. Cobb

V.21 No.16 | 4/19/2012


First line rundown pt. 5

Usually this blog column is used to highlight the first lines of a plethora of new works of fiction. But since I just read and reviewed Ted Heller’s Pocket Kings—a novel about a novelist full of quotes from said novelist's fake novels—I thought I'd just draw from there.

"It is a cold and harrowing morning in the life of a man the day he wakes up, looks at himself in the mirror, and finally realizes that he is not, never has been, nor will ever be George Clooney.”

—Opening line to Ted Heller's Pocket Kings

"In the small village in which my grandmother was born, the giant men flew down from the violet mountain mists after every monsoon season to take our women away."

—Heller's protagonist Frank W. Dixon positing the kind of opening line that usually gratifies NY Times book critics

"Things were very bad then but still we carried on."

—The opening line to one of Dixon's books; an opening line that Dixon is incredibly proud of

“An hour late to work I’m riding the D train to work in a short tight black BCBG mini skirt and not only do I feel Seth the Sommelier dribbling down my right thigh but I also see some of Antonio the Busboy sticking to my left calf.”

—The lead sentence from Saucier: A Bitch in the Kitchen, a novel Dixon reads and criticizes within Pocket Kings


First line rundown pt. 4

More (potentially) famous first lines

“The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted.”

—The Beginner’s Goodbye, Anne Tyler

“The one clear thing I can say about Wednesday, the worst and most amazing day of my life, is this: it started out beautifully.”

—From “The Infamous Bengal Ming,” the first in Rajesh Parameswaran’s collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

“They live on a housing estate outside of the town of Worcester, between the railway line and the National Road.”

—Scenes from Provincial Life, J.M. Coetzee

“This is when and where it all begins, with all the dreamers champagne-drunk and stumbling on the head of the Needle.”

—Truth Like the Sun, Jim Lynch

V.21 No.12 | 3/22/2012


First line rundown pt. 3

More novel openers to weigh against “Call me Ishmael”

“Elaine’s, late.”

-Unnatural Acts, Stuart Woods

“If you had been across the street, pretending to investigate the local summer roses outside Holliday’s Flower Shop, you could have seen them through the café’s plate glass, the two sitting in the booth by a window, eating lunch.”

-What You See in the Dark, Manuel Muñoz

“The left engine backfired again and began to stumble as Jabe Rainwater rolled the old Beechcraft left and right in an effort to drain the last of the fuel from his nearly bone-dry wing tanks.”

-Bad Medicine, R. Barry King

“Just as the keynote address was winding down, the rain came hissing up the little valley in sheets.”

-West of Here, Jonathan Evison

“‘Read this,’ my father said as he tossed a leather-bound journal at my chest, trying to catch me by surprise.”

-Until the Next Time, Kevin Fox

V.21 No.9 | 3/1/2012


First line rundown pt. 2

More openers to recently published novels

“Tribal Police Investigator Ella Clah stood next to her department’s cruiser, a dusty, white SUV that had more miles on it than a Two Grey Hills sheepdog.”

-Black Thunder, Aimée & David Thurlo

“Dr. Alexander Hoffman sat by the fire in his study in Geneva, a half-smoked cigar lying cold in the ashtray beside him, and angle-poise lamp pulled low over his shoulder, turning the pages of a first edition of The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin.”

-The Fear Index, Robert Harris

“Reuben was a tall man, well over six feet, with curly brown hair and deep-set blue eyes.”

-The Wolf Gift, Anne Rice

“In the time when the animals were men, Coyote was living in a certain place.”

-Gods Without Men, Hari Kunzru

“A tree is brought down slowly, unlimbed, unbarked, laid bare but not barren.”

-Bring Me One of Everything, Leslie Hall Pinder

V.20 No.41 | 10/13/2011


First line rundown

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but how far do you really need to delve into a novel to tell if you’ve hit a literary goldmine or simply something that will make nice ornamentation for your toilet tank? With that question in mind, I offer up some first lines from books that have recently landed on my desk:

“Why, thank you. I’m getting in shape to die.”

—The Widower’s Tale, Julia Glass

“All the trouble, of course, began with Velázquez.”

—The Petting Zoo, Jim Carroll

“Abraham’s heels clicked along the marble floor as he moved the length of the room.”

—The Slayer Chronicles: First Kill, Heather Brewer

“Dr. Learmont, newly appointed general practitioner for the districts of West Masedown and New Eliry, rocks and jolts on the front seat of a trap as it descends the lightly sloping path of Versoie House.”

—C, Tom McCarthy