Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Not So Great Second Lines Of Novels


Below are what many consider to be some of the greatest first lines of novels. I have scoured libraries across the world, looking through many texts and author notes, and discovered that in most cases, the second line was even better. (Although, for unknown reasons these lines were never actually published, probably because they towered over and thusly diminished the author’s supposed great first line.) Here are a few:

“Call me Ishmael. As a matter of fact, call me any time.” - Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, 1851

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. It also a truth, not as widely known, that she will spend that good fortune on items for the toilet, parlor and bed chamber and stop having sex with him after the fourth year of marriage.” - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. I can’t believe a thirteen year-old girl gave me the clap.” Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, 1955

“riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. Whoa, whoa, I've had a little too much opium.” - James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 1939

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Obviously, the clocks were in need of fixing.” - George Orwell, 1984, 1949

“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. Or not.” - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

“I am an invisible man. I am also naked in the girls locker room.” - Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952

“You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. Even if you did read it, they left out all the good sex parts with me and Tom and Becky.” - Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1885

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. It’s not very good, but the name sounds important and you apparently have nothing else to read.” - Italo Calvino (trans. William Weaver), If on a winter's night a traveler, 1979

“I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost:—Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,—I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me. You should stop reading here unless you are an English teacher.” - Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, 1759–1767

“Mother died today. Oh shit, and she forgot to pay the electric bill.” - Albert Camus (trans. Stuart Gilbert), The Stranger, 1942

“They shoot the white girl first. Okay, just kidding--they shoot the black girl first, dammit.” - Toni Morrison, Paradise, 1998

“For a long time, I went to bed early. Then I got married and just started to fall asleep in my chair.” - Marcel Proust (trans. Lydia Davis), Swann's Way, 1913

“The moment one learns English, complications set in. It gets even worse if they take up comedy writing.” - Felipe Alfau, Chromos, 1990

1 comment:

Nat Topping said...

"You should stop reading here unless you are an English teacher."

Delightful.