The Sun Also Rises: “Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn.” (That was two lines — cheating — but okay.)
Catch 22: “The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”
“My favorite first line comes from Donald ‘Skip’ Hays in The Dixie Association: ‘I sat in my cell, packing my sh** in a cardboard box.’ By far, this is the best book about baseball I’ve ever read. Interestingly, we read this book in a class taught by a very left-wing feminist professor. It was introduced as a book about sex and baseball.”
Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: “You must go back with me to the autumn of 1827.”
F. Marion Crawford, The Witch of Prague: “A great multitude of people filled the church, crowded together in the old black pews, standing closely thronged in the nave and aisles, pressing shoulder to shoulder even in the two chapels on the right and left of the apse, a vast gathering of pale men and women whose eyes were sad and in whose faces was written the history of their nation.” (Whoa — shivers.)
From Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea
: “The year 1866 was signalised by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and puzzling phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.”
From Poe’s “Silence — A Fable”: “Listen to me, said the Demon as he placed his hand upon my head.”
Max Shulman, Sleep till Noon: “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Four shots ripped into my groin, and I was off on the biggest adventure of my life . . . But first let me tell you a little about myself.”
“Elmer Gantry was drunk. He was eloquently drunk, lovingly and pugnaciously drunk” (two again — sorry).
“Life is difficult” — The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “We were an hour outside of Barstow when the mescaline kicked in.”
Quest for a Maid by Frances Mary Hendry: “When I was seven, I hid under a table and watched my sister kill a king.”
“Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage / black and murderous, that cost the Greeks / Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls / Of heroes into Hades’ dark / And left their bodies to rot as feasts / For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done.” — Iliad, Book I, Lombardo translation
“Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.” — Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
“Tell me, what is happiness?” — Iain M. Banks, The Use of Weapons
“Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversation?’” — Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
A reader writes, “‘I wear the ring,’ from Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline. Admittedly, it does not have broad appeal because the book is about a sometimes-anachronistic military school in South Carolina. But as I am a graduate of The Citadel, the school upon which the book is loosely based, it ‘rings’ true with me!”
George Orwell, Coming Up for Air: “The idea really came to me the day I got my new false teeth.”
“‘Call me Ishmael’ is a tough act to follow, but Sena Jeter Naslund came close in her book Ahab’s Wife, with this line: ‘Ahab was neither my first husband, nor my last.’”
“I was born in the house my father built” (Richard Nixon, Memoirs)
Robert Heinlein, Year of the Jackpot: “At first, Potiphar Breen did not notice the girl taking her clothes off.”
“My all-time favorite is from William Gibson’s 1983 sci-fi classic Neuromancer: ‘The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.’”
Charles Portis, True Grit: “People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day.”
Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier: “This is the saddest story I know.”
Orwell, “England Your England”: “As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.”
Kurt Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron”: “The year was 2081, and everyone was finally equal.”
Says a reader, “I can’t think of an opening line that better captures the essence of the story to follow than this one, from A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean: ‘In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.’”
Stephen Becker, The Chinese Bandit: “That summer, they hanged a fat man from the western gate, as a warning to all.”
V. S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River.: “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”
Okay, guys, to end, a couple of last lines? That seems fitting:
“Overhead, one by one, the stars were going out” (Arthur C. Clarke, The Nine Billion Names of God)
The end of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four: “You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
And can anyone beat Fitzgerald? “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Or is that one of those faux-profound sayings — pretty, but stupid?
That was strictly a rhetorical question, thank you very much.
Many thanks, guys — I mean, y’all (or y’unz — for all my Ohio Valley friends).