Top 10 Most Outrageous Opening Lines in Literature

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."

#09 - NEUROMANCER [1984] William Gibson
NEUROMANCER [1984] William Gibson Image

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."

#08 - 1984 [1949] George Orwell
 1984 [1949] George Orwell Image

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

#07 - INVISIBLE MAN [1952] Ralph Ellison
INVISIBLE MAN [1952] Ralph Ellison Image

"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. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me."

#06 - NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND [1864] Fyodor Dostoyevsky
NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND  [1864] Fyodor Dostoyevsky Image

"I am a sick man . . . I am a wicked man. An unattractive man, I think my liver hurts."

#05 - ORLANDO [1928] Virginia Woolf
ORLANDO [1928] Virginia Woolf Image

"He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters."

#04 - ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST [1962] Ken Kesey

"They're out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them."

#03 - TRAINSPOTTING [1993] Irvine Welsh
TRAINSPOTTING [1993] Irvine Welsh Image

"Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday night. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?"  

#02 - FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS [1971] Hunter S. Thompson
FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS [1971] Hunter S. Thompson Image

"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like 'I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive . . .' And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming, 'Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?'"

#01 - THE METAMORPHOSIS [1915] Franz Kafka
THE METAMORPHOSIS [1915] Franz Kafka Image

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."

Top 10 List Courtesy of Michael Conor Sullivan

User Comments - Add a Comment
NIck - 2008-10-26 23:08:34

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. James Crumley "The Last Good Kiss"

anon - 2008-10-27 02:53:19

Why is the 1984 quote outrageous? because of the thirteen? despite the fact that "the 24-hour clock is a convention of time keeping in which the day runs from midnight to midnight and is divided into 24 hours, numbered from 0 to 23. This system is the most commonly used time notation in the world today." it just isn't common in the US and Canada... and guess what? 1984 wasn't written about the US or by an American...

ramblin101010 - 2008-10-27 03:26:52

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.

Adelle - 2008-10-27 13:38:22

"The magician's underwear has just been found in a cardboard suitcase floating in a stagnant pond on the outskirts of Miami." Tom Robbins: ANOTHER ROADSIDE ATTRACTION You should read the first line of "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues"

jim - 2008-10-27 13:47:26

Call me Ischmael. . .

phil - 2008-10-27 16:20:57

nice list

John - 2008-10-27 16:21:54

anon - we don't say "thirteen o'clock" in the UK either. It's not exactly "outrageous", but it is dissonant, designed to throw you off guard. "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know." - Camus, the Stranger.

Alison - 2008-10-27 17:18:02

@ Anon True that people use the 24 hour clocks, but the idea that a clock is striking thirteen is odd because analog clocks do not have the number thirteen. There are some 24 hour analog clocks, but they were only recently manufactured.

mike - 2008-10-27 19:26:49

"It has been reported that Tanuki fell from the sky using his scrotum as a parachute." Tom Robbins, Villa Incognito

anon...not the same anon - 2008-10-27 19:27:43

1984 was written in 1949...meant to be futuristic(the title would suggest that to a person of that time period), therefore "the clock strikes thirteen" is neither outrageous or even that significant..its just setting the tone.

kstr - 2008-10-27 20:37:46

"It was the day my Grandmother exploded" Iain Banks 'The Crow Road'

zstarmac - 2008-10-27 20:46:34

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo... His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face. - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Yukino - 2008-10-27 20:47:10

The first line of Hitchhiker's guide is a good one :). Reading most of these makes me want to read the books (the ones I haven't read).

Blohard - 2008-10-27 20:48:22

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge." Red Wind by Raymond Chandler

Anonymous - 2008-10-27 20:49:38

Clocks that strike the hour only go from one to twelve, you morons.

John Collins - 2008-10-27 20:53:11

LOL, Well done. You raise some very good points. Jiff 

Anonymous - 2008-10-27 20:53:23

That's not the first part from Trainspotting the book, in fact it never appears in the book. Its only in the film.

barfly - 2008-10-27 20:54:57

"I was 50 years old and hadn't been to bed with a woman for four years. I had no women friends. I looked at them as I passed them on the streets or wherever I saw them, but I looked at them without yearning and with a sense of futility. I masturbated regularly, but the idea of having a relationship with a woman—even on non-sexual terms—was beyond my imagination." - Women, Charles Bukowski

Does it matter - 2008-10-27 20:55:04

Genesis 1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth.

Anonymous - 2008-10-27 21:03:12

^^ outrageous in the sense that it never happened

Silvio - 2008-10-27 21:04:43

How about: It was a dark and stormy night

Number three - 2008-10-27 21:13:36

The regular early morning yell of horror was the sound of Arthur Dent waking up and suddenly remembering where he was. It wasn't just that the cave was cold, it wasn't just that it was damp and smelly. It was the fact that the cave was in the middle of Islington and there wasn't bus due for two million years. Douglas Adams. Life, the Universe, and Everything.(Book three)

jrusselll - 2008-10-27 21:24:24

"who is john galt?" atlas shrugged

Don Pope - 2008-10-27 21:29:22

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, General Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." - 100 years of solitude

nonanon - 2008-10-27 21:34:52

clocks that strike go up to 12, not 13. you guys are so dumb it hurts. (repeating the other non-retarded anon for trying to point this out)

lee - 2008-10-27 21:38:08

try reading some W.S.Burroughs. outrageous indeed. Celine maybe? Silly list

Paul - 2008-10-27 22:00:48

It shows it right there in the cover image you posted: The book is called Notes From Underground, not Notes From The Underground.

Jeff - 2008-10-27 22:05:17

"If you're going to read this, dont bother. After a couple pages, you won't want to be here. So forget it. Go away. Get out while you're still in one piece." - From the first line of Chapter 1 in Chuck Palahniuk's "Choke".

Anonymous - 2008-10-27 22:08:26

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

Neglected Shirley - 2008-10-27 22:19:02

Leaving out Shirley Jackson is, as usual, epic fail personified.

Luke - 2008-10-27 22:27:28

Ok. To the illiterates who think that the 1984 quote is insignificant, allow me to clarify. In the context of the novel, it sets a very strong tone. To anyone who hasn't read it (which I assume is most of you from the sound of it), with the structure of society created in the novel, day and time as stated by Winston is just what he perceives, because there is no way he can really know. As the novel goes on, it becomes clear that both the day and time are absolutely irrelevant, as the government can and does arbitrarily alter it, which ultimately makes the title of the book irrelevant as well. Outrageous? I think so. But for the record, HST is a genius and would be number one if I made this list.

anon - 2008-10-27 22:34:08

maman died today. or yesterday maybe, i don't know" the stranger by albert camus

kbergstr - 2008-10-27 22:35:47

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

T - 2008-10-27 22:43:06

"It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me." -Anthony Burgess (Earthly Powers)

scrib - 2008-10-27 22:51:31

Yeah to totally be That Person, that's the opening line to the film version of Trainspotting, but the book starts off with something like "The sweat was lashing off of Sick Boy" or something to that effect, and the choose life speech actually comes somewhere in the middle of the book.

Petenz - 2008-10-27 22:52:44

"It is not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw. The blade kept snagging the skin, and slipping off the smooth bone of the forehead. If I made a mistake, I slid to one side or the other, and I would not saw precisely down the centre of the nose, the mouth, the chin, the throat. It required tremendous concentration. I had to pay close attention, and at the same time I could not really acknowledge what I was doing, because it was so horrible" - Michael Crichton, "Travels" (Autobiography)

fx - 2008-10-27 23:28:50

Please-no more T tryin-too-hard Robbins

Anon - 2008-10-27 23:30:55

"A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now." --Gravity's Rainbow "'To be born again,' sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, 'first you have to die.' Ho ji! Ho ji! To land upon the bosomy earth, first one needs to fly. Tat-taa! Taka-thun! How to ever smile again, if first you won't cry? How to win the darling's love , mister, without a sigh? Baba, if you want to get born again . . . ' Just before dawn one winter's morning, New Year's Day or thereabouts, two real, full-grown, living men fell from a great height, twenty-nine thousand and two feet, towards the English Channel, without benefit of parachutes or wings, out of a clear sky." --The Satanic Verses

Tod Glenn - 2008-10-27 23:34:48

"It was a pleasure to burn." Farenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

Glenda - 2008-10-27 23:50:33

Who am I? If this once I were to rely on a proverb, then perhaps everything would amount to knowing whom I "haunt." I must admit that this last word is misleading, tending to establish between certain beings and myself relations that are stranger, more inescapable, more disturbing than I intended. Such a word means much more than it says, makes me, still alive, play a ghostly part, evidently referring to what I must have ceased to be in order to be who I am. (Andre Breton, Nadja)

Anonymous - 2008-10-27 23:56:53

My uncle got me a book for Christmas that starts "I opened my eyes to see the rat taking a piss in my coffee mug. It was a huge brown bastard; had a body like a turd..." and that is as far as I can get. Crooked Little Vein, Warren Ellis

anon - 2008-10-28 00:05:16

In regards to the 1984 line: 24-hour timekeeping-- aka military or astronomical time, you idiots. Hardly an outrageous quote.

neely - 2008-10-28 00:11:09

the word is diseased "I am a sick man...I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased." -Fyodor Dostoevsky

Rich - 2008-10-28 00:12:21

John Galt is a bankrupt fool who used to work for AIG. - me

Chris - 2008-10-28 00:18:27

13 chimes. Military time. That's the point. That this nation is under martial law. See? - 2008-10-28 00:21:37

"Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair. The doctor told him there were no bugs in his hair." A Scanner Darkly by Phillip K. Dick

mmutt - 2008-10-28 01:29:58

this is a misleading post. these are in someone's PERSONAL top ten, and literature is a very personal thing. the comments support this.

Eric - 2008-10-28 02:03:42

"What's it going to be then, eh?" There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard through dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no licence for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels And Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg. Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I'm starting off the story with.

vincent - 2008-10-28 02:49:08

One of the most famous first line (quoted by john) : "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know." - Camus, the Stranger... great book

Dunk - 2008-10-28 05:09:44

The day Daphne Moran had her throat cut someone stole our chickens - Ronald Hugh Morrieson "The Scarecrow"

Nick - 2008-10-28 05:12:25

What??? No Terry Pratchett!

Jon - 2008-10-28 05:42:20

anoin re 13 hr clock in 1984 - in 1948 when teh book was written, there wsa virtully no such thing as the 24 hour clock (not in everyday use anyway, i guess the army used it) - thus the idea being to suggest "the future"

Anonymous - 2008-10-28 08:22:28

What manner of striking clock strikes a thirteen? Honestly, people, read the text as it is without warping it with your own suppositions of what a 24-hour clock is.

oi - 2008-10-28 08:28:39

First Law of the Internet: Search Google before you make comments like '24-hour striking clocks' do not exist.

John W - 2008-10-28 08:43:32

"Monday This new creature with the long hair is a good deal in the way" -- The Diary of Adam and Eve, Mark Twain. (Although technically just short story.)

bbabich - 2008-10-28 09:16:47

"In regards to the 1984 line: 24-hour timekeeping-- aka military or astronomical time, you idiots. Hardly an outrageous quote." If you're going to go around and call people idiots, you open yourself up. 'Astronomical time' (or 'sidereal' time as it is actually known) isn't 24 hours. It's only 23hours 56mins 4s per day.

pwlemons - 2008-10-28 09:27:58

One of the best ever - "Officious prick!" - The Shining by Steven King

StellarSwarm - 2008-10-28 09:50:50

"It was hell's season, and the air smelled of burning children." 'Gone South' by Robert McCammon

Cambrinus - 2008-10-28 10:01:28

"On the day he is eventually killed, Santiago Nasar wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to wait for the boat which is bringing the bishop." - Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Juan Preciado - 2008-10-28 10:28:59

The title should add "Western" literature. Because your list ignores more than half the world. A sample from Borges, the "Circular Ruins": The Circular Ruins No one saw him disembark in the unanimous night, no one saw the bamboo canoe sink into the sacred mud, but in a few days there was no one who did not know that the taciturn man came from the South and that his home had been one of those numberless villages upstream in the deeply cleft side of the mountain, where the Zend language has not been contaminated by Greek and where leprosy is infrequent. What is certain is that the grey man kissed the mud, climbed up the bank with pushing aside (probably, without feeling) the blades which were lacerating his flesh, and crawled, nauseated and bloodstained, up to the circular enclosure crowned with a stone tiger or horse, which sometimes was the color of flame and now was that of ashes. This circle was a temple which had been devoured by ancient fires, profaned by the miasmal jungle, and whose god no longer received the homage of men. The stranger stretched himself out beneath the pedestal. He was awakened by the sun high overhead. He was not astonished to find that his wounds had healed; he closed his pallid eyes and slept, not through weakness of flesh but through determination of will. He knew that this temple was the place required for his invincible intent; he knew that the incessant trees had not succeeded in strangling the ruins of another propitious temple downstream which had once belonged to gods now burned and dead; he knew that his immediate obligation was to dream. Toward midnight he was awakened by the inconsolable shriek of a bird. Tracks of bare feet, some figs and a jug warned him that the men of the region had been spying respectfully on his sleep, soliciting his protection or afraid of his magic. He felt a chill of fear, and sought out a sepulchral niche in the dilapidated wall where he concealed himself among unfamiliar leaves.

Greg - 2008-10-28 10:36:35

Not everybody knows how I killed old Phillip Mathers, smashing his jaw in with my spade; but first it is better to speak of my friendship with John Divney because it was he who first knocked old Mathers down by giving him a great blow in the neck with a special bicycle-pump which he manufactured himself out of a hollow iron bar. Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

Somme - 2008-10-28 10:40:13

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." - Catcher in the Rye

Larry - 2008-10-28 11:22:12

For God's sake: Where is "Call me Ishmael"

Rick - 2008-10-28 11:55:14

You forgot Norman McLean's "A River Runs Through It": "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fisherman, and we were left to assumer, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen, and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman."

Anonymous - 2008-10-28 11:59:58

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad'Dib, then, take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad'Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place. --from "Manual of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan

hylas - 2008-10-28 12:09:39

"It was a dark and stormy night". [?] "No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough." -HST

Anonymous - 2008-10-28 12:11:58

That is not the first line from the Welsh book Trainspotting. Maybe it is from the screenplay?

atlas - 2008-10-28 13:42:26

yes this is western lit, the kind of western that makes sense in english. translations loose meaning, some more than others, but certain cultures and refrences are important to know when reading a book written abroad.

anon - 2008-10-28 15:14:48

"Tyler get's me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler's pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die."

MarcM - 2008-10-28 16:28:29

What about Scaramouche by Sabatini? "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad!"

EAB - 2008-10-28 16:44:37

Call me Ahab. - Moby Dick

Kate - 2008-10-28 16:58:38

Oh my God! That was awesome, i was just comepletely cracking up. I need to read some of the ones that I had never heard of (especially Trainspotting). Though I don't think I could ever find any. But heres to looking.

medic8ed - 2008-10-28 18:40:30

ramblin101010: you have my vote for Lolita. 100%.

Jaimie - 2008-10-28 19:43:11

Metamorphosis is my term paper book right now. I saw the link to this on a friend's blog and I knew it had to be on there. Didn't expect number one though. lol

Uhh... - 2008-10-28 20:21:44

How exactly is "Call me Ishmael" outrageous? Or indeed, most of the ones listed in the comments. First lines from great literature are neither de facto great nor de facto outrageous. Consider Alice Sebold's Almost Moon: "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily." Or JG Ballard's Crash: "Vaughan died yesterday in his last car-crash." Or Jeffrey Eugenides' Virgin Suicies: "On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide-it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese-the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope." There are other examples, of course, but let's at least stick to outrageous ones, and not merely famous ones.

Anton - 2008-10-28 21:48:23

“The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air. I could smell it before I saw or heard anything of India, even as I walked along the umbilical corridor that connected the plane to the airport. I was excited and delighted by it… but I didn’t and couldn’t recognize it. I know now that it’s the sweet, sweating smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it’s the sour stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love. It’s the smell of gods, demons, empires, and civilizations in resurrection and decay… It smells of the stir and sleep and waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. It smells of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and loves that produce our courage. It smells of ten thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churches, and mosques, and of a hundred bazaars devoted exclusively to perfumes, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers… the worst good smell in the world. The next thing I noticed was the heat. I stood in airport queues, not five minutes from the conditioned air of the plane, and my clothes clung to sudden sweat… Each breath was an angry little victory… Then there were the people; warrior caste, Brahmin, and untouchable; Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Parsee, Jain, Animist; fair skin and dark, green eyes and golden brown and black; every different face and form of that extravagant variety, that incomparable beauty, India.” --Gregory David Roberts ("Shantaram") - 2008-10-28 23:00:15

I always enjoyed the deep thought of writers. Not always easily understood, but that could be part of the mystery behind the writer. from tony at:

Skrunge - 2008-10-29 00:49:45

Walsh's Trainspotting first line: The sweat wis lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling. Ah wis jist sitting thair, focusing oan the telly, tryin no tae notice the cunt. He wis bringing me doon. Ah tried tae keep ma attention oan the Jean-Claude Van Damme video. Here are a couple of other exceedingly good reads: It was inevitable: The sent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. Love in the time of Cholera - Gabriel Gárcia Marquez "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears and I tell you, he's the one." Orson Scott Card - Ender's Game. "Kanai spotted her the moment he stepped onto the crowded platform: He was deceived neither by her close-cropped black hair, nor by her clothes, which were those of a teenage boy - loose cotton pants and an oversize white shirt." Amitav Ghosh - The Hungry Tide

Miau - 2008-10-29 03:05:43

Did that person actually read Trainspotting or just the poster for the film?

blakelylaw - 2008-10-29 06:03:03

I, too, wondered where Ishmael was. Then I realized that perhaps it really isn't outrageous, just famous. Then I got to thinking about what makes a great opening line. My thoughts - 1. The shorter, the better - A quality which helps stick the line in our minds. Hence, one of the reasons Ishmael is so famous. Ditto most of Dostoevsky, including the one which made the list, & Anna Karenina. The multiple opening lines on the list, e.g. Trainspotting & Fear & Loathing really do nothing for me. 2, Quirky is good, aka, the "whoa" factor - I'm talking about clocks striking 13, waking up in bed having turned into a big, etc. Hitchhiker's Guide fits the bill for me, even though it is lengthy. You're reading along, then realize it's talking about the reader. Put the 2 together & you instantly understand why Metamorphisis is #1 on this type of list.

Naked Lunch - 2008-10-29 06:44:21

"I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper I throw away at Washington Square Station, vault a turnstile and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an uptown A train… Young, good looking, crew cut, Ivy League, advertising exec type fruit holds the door back for me." William S. Burroughs

ts - 2008-10-29 11:29:43

"I am an invisible man." -- that line, (though probably after reading a little more and coming back to it,) made me want to be a writer.

cloak - 2008-10-29 15:26:02

It began as a mistake.-charles bukowski,opening line of post opening ever.

Anonymous. - 2008-10-29 18:30:19

The trainspotting one is wrong. Those lines never appear in the book. They're from the film. Might be an idea to actually read the opening lines of the books you're talking about before compiling a list like this.

anononon - 2008-10-30 18:41:13

The Trainspotting line is the first line of the movie but it is line 187 of the book. It is also the first line of the screenplay and often regarded as the first line of Trainspotting.

Sven - 2008-10-30 22:33:46

to everyone arguing against the 1984 quote, analog clocks only show 12 hours

Klaus Heid - 2008-10-31 06:02:20

Some thoughts about the opening in 1984. I read that books over ten times, it´s one of my favorits. I´ll think George Orwell choose that opening, because of the coming conflict between USA and Sowjet at 1946. It´s like the german saying: "It´s 5 minutes before twelve, so hurry and change something in your life" But in that book, 12 o´clock is long past and noone could change anything about the past and future desaster. I like that opening.

loafing - 2008-11-02 13:57:01

popzero got it right on digg "'In five years, the penis will be obsolete,' said the salesman." John Varley - Steel Beach

Anonymous - 2008-11-02 15:58:41

"I was stark naked, stoned out of my mind on Heroin and the girl lying between my legs giving me head was Janis Joplin." - Going Down With Janis by Peggy Casserta

Bob Fa%Fa N Fa - 2008-11-04 02:43:54

Hey - has anybody mentioned that a clock cannot strike thirteen?

Yeray-Muad'Dib - 2008-11-05 02:49:15

"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 directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way." A Tale of Two cities, Charles Dickens

Hemingway75 - 2008-11-09 10:05:27

Nice quote from Trainspotting. Pity it's not the opening line.

Timedog - 2008-11-12 10:04:37

Good list, but not my favorites. A Clockwok Orange and The Tin Drum are classics. Shocking, too.

Cooper Green - 2008-11-12 22:36:05

The opening paragraph of "Water Music" by TC Boyle: "The year was 1795. George III was dabbing the walls of Windsor Castle with his own spittle, the Notables were botching things in France, Goya was deaf, De Quincey a depraved pre-adolescent. George Bryan "Beau" Brummell was smoothing down his first starched collar, Young Ludwig van Beethoven, beetle-browed and twenty-four, was wowing them in Vienna with his Piano Concerto no. 2, and Ned Rise was drinking Strip-Me-Naked with Nan Punt and Sally Sebum at the Pig & Pox Tavern in Maiden Lane."

Patrick - 2008-11-13 17:03:36

"Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure." The Outsider - Albert camus. Perhaps that should feature...

Friseal - 2008-11-13 19:10:45

"Jesus fuck." Inspector McGregor wished there was some kind of official crime scenario checklist, just so that he could have a quick glance and confirm that he had seen it all now. He hadn’t sworn at a discovery for ages, perfecting instead a resigned, fatigued expression that said, "Of course. How could I have possibly expected anything less?" Christopher Brookmyre, "Quite Ugly One Morning".

Summer Glau - 2008-11-13 19:29:15

Even if T.Robbins does try too hard (which none of us will ever know the truth of) he still writes colorfully, and I think that the majority of his first lines could be considered "outrageous" although outrage is objective...

monkeipeg - 2008-11-13 20:54:44

"Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison is NOT outrageous. Its intro makes perfect sense. It's about black identity prior to the Civil Rights Movement. Blacks were invisible to the majority of America. Laws were specifically made to be detrimental towards them and there was obvious hatred, especially in the South. Perhaps these opening lines should be called "shocking" or "eye-opening" rather than "outrageous".

Anon - 2008-11-13 22:45:21

Besides the neutral expression that she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reverse, that she used for all her human dealings. --Flannery O'Connor, Good Country People, Short story, but she's one of the best authors in literature

Brian - 2008-11-14 00:04:48

Folks, It matters not if real clocks have 12 or 365 or chime or beep or remain silent when it is appropriate. What is of import in prose is the experience. What does it invoke in us when we read that the clock chimed 13. In the best of all prose that message will remain powerful across cultures and through time. The book 1984 does that - pity that the opening sentence seems not to.

Anonymous - 2008-11-14 09:29:52

To the person who thinks that the 1984 quote is not strange: your anger is founded in ignorance. The 13 is strange because there is no number 13 on a clock. Even on the clocks outside the U.S. and Canada.

Anonymous - 2008-11-14 09:51:42


Anon Y. Mous - 2008-11-14 12:41:07

"Her gynocologist recommended him to me." -The Water-Method Man (1972) by John Irving

Muleskinner - 2008-11-14 16:30:56

"I was born a poor brown mule-- my mother, an old gray nag, my father, an ass-- destined to a life, no more than a beast of burden. But I had a dream..." From SWEETFEED, The Autobiography of Jack T Mule

departed pro - 2008-11-14 22:10:20

you should do a "top ten best closing lines" list

Smith - 2008-11-15 01:08:08

What pretension in these comments. Would that everyone were as sophisticated as some of you. I'd love to see many of you in an actual literature class. You'd get your asses handed to you.

Damon Davenport - 2008-11-15 04:19:28

"Yes, Sir. Certainly, it was I who found the body. This morning, as usual, I went to cut my daily quota of cedars, when I found the body in a grove in a hollow in the mountains." Akutagawa - In A Grove (Rashomon)

Prodnose - 2008-11-15 08:45:49

'Marked cards!' There were a score round us when the fool, little knowing the man with whom he had to deal, and as little how to lose like a gentleman, flung the words in my teeth. The intriguing start of UNDER THE RED ROBE by Stanley J Weyman, early 20th C historical novel about 17th C France.

anon - 2008-11-15 16:05:44

@anon The clock never strikes 13. That is the point. A clock strikes anything between one and twelve.

Marga - 2008-11-15 16:29:02

"En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor". Cervantes, Don Quijote de la Mancha.

SpinDizzy - 2008-11-15 19:23:43

"The doorknob opened a blue eye and looked at him." The Fairy Chessmen by Lewis Padgett

Laine - 2008-11-15 22:22:19

I'm sure someone else has already pointed this out by now, but those are NOT the opening lines to Trainspotting. Not the book anyway. They were the opening lines to the movie. The book, as is usual, is better.

LBM1408 - 2008-11-15 23:13:31

I agree that many of these opening lines are famous rather than "outrageous", even though some of them are pretty mind blowing. As far as the Invisible man quote being to obviously about the oppression of blackmen is obviously either brainwashed, or is assuming everyone has read the whole book. based souly on the the opening line the book could be about any minority being oppressed, or, on a more "americanized" (HA!) note someone who just feel unimportant and thus invisible.

Mike - 2008-11-16 06:53:40

"It was the day my grandmother exploded." The Crow Road by Iain Banks

Cindy - 2008-11-16 09:17:43

"On a windsweptfall day, on a gray morning after the colrful agony of autumn had passed but before the deep, blank snows of winter sealed off the world, Captain Charles Butler McVay III, the former commander of the World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis, woke and took stock of his day." IN Harm's Way, the story of the sinking of the Indianapolis

krebstar - 2008-11-16 11:39:10

The clock striking 13 in 1984 is meant to automatically let the reader know that are being immersed in a world which is not their own. England hadn't switched to metric yet, so this wasn't normal in Orwell's time. The fact that it is "13" may also attribute to the tone.

Lila - 2008-11-16 19:51:31

The Metamorphosis is not funny at all. It just makes the book sound dumb.

chemambru - 2008-11-16 20:00:38

Stop posting entire first paragraphs. The first line is enough, really.

Anonymous - 2008-11-16 23:05:28

Can someone please explain to me what the big deal about "Call me Ishmael." is? Even if I'm missing something and it really is great, rather than just memorable and from a great book, what is outrageous about it (as implied by those who keep suggesting that it should have been included here)?

A concerned bystander - 2008-11-17 09:39:26

First, "Call me Ishmael" is the opening line from Moby Dick. It's a book about a whale, more or less. Secondly, are the people actually so retarded it hurts? You can build an analogue clock that does whatever you want it to do. I, for one, have 12-hour analogue clock that runs anti-clockwise. It's not infeasible, therefore, to suppose that a clock could be built in such a way as to allow it to strike thirteen. But that's really not the point of the line. The point is that it was a cold day in April, and that it was one o'clock, post meridian. You all need to calm down a little bit about your clocks.

Nick - 2008-11-17 10:37:56

We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. Louise Erdrich, Tracks (1988)

jlmsm - 2008-11-17 11:55:12

"The young boys came early to the hanging" --Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Alison - 2008-11-17 13:03:39

SO GLAD that a few others recognized the false first lines printed for Trainspotting! OMG, the book is so much better than the movie, and you can't even understand those lines until you've been through quite a bit of the book! Good lord. At least title the web page "Great lines from great books" or something, if you're DYING to use those lines from trainspotting. For the original opening lines, see a comment about midway below.

Kate - 2008-11-17 15:14:16

How embarrassing to list a book you've clearly never read. I Like "When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs. Nugent." Not OUTRAGEOUS (until you find out what he did) but it certainly piques the interest!

Timothy Michael Davis - 2008-11-17 16:22:14

1984 is in no way meant to be futuristic. It was written in 1948, and that was the title Orwell originally chose; it was the publisher who decided that would be offensive to the public and reversed the last two numbers to make it in the future. It was meant as a satire of the then and now, his times, not any possible future. I have no idea what this means for your argument about clocks striking thirteen, frankly I don't care, but this was not a futuristic book, this was how Orwell saw his world.

Have A Life - 2008-11-17 18:05:24

People arguing on the internet over whether or not a clock could strike 13 and trying to refute whether or not it's outrageous. This, itself, is outrageous.

Karin - 2008-11-17 19:34:07

in Germany we say indeed 13 o clock. we just say it in German.

13 o'clock - 2008-11-18 04:39:31

i realize that joining this argument is completely besides the point of the line, but i swear there is a grandfather clock in 'labrinth', the film, that strikes thirteen, no special point is made of this in the film, its by the staircase in whats-her-names house and just used to track the passage of time in the real world.

ted de stratford - 2008-11-18 09:47:05

'The speed at which his socks rolled up and down not only caused him pain but enabled his mother to faint with the sheer horror of it all'. 'Clothes with a Mind of their Own'

Mike - 2008-11-18 16:00:48

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Mike - 2008-11-18 23:25:27

Its Vermin Not Insect. Translation is wrong.

Ali - 2008-11-18 23:54:05

How about "It was the day my grandmother exploded." from The Crow Road by Ian Banks

Louise - 2008-11-19 14:19:32

"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenburgs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York." Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Maxie Padd - 2008-11-25 19:31:04

"A screaming comes across the sky." --Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

Callum - 2008-11-25 21:26:35

“It was midnight in the howling forest. The wind whistled through the tops of the ancient trees. Suddenly something enormous crashed and rumbled through the eerie woods.” ~From the book in the movie, The Never Ending Story.

Callum - 2008-11-26 18:20:01

“Here was the least common denominator of nature, the skeleton requirements simply, of land and sky—Saskatchewan prairie. W.O Mitchel's Book.

brad d - 2008-12-01 22:34:32

I'd like to see one of those UK clocks that go all the way to 24. Maybe I'll go to my local "Brit-Crap" stores that sells blood pudding and short bread cookies

Anonymous - 2009-01-15 20:30:35

the quote "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." is incredibly outrageous. The British military started using the 24 hr clocks earlier, but it was not a publicly used source of time. The quote is meant to show one of the largest themes in the book which is the governmental control. Winston does not know the exact date, a foreshadowing of the way government controls what they please, so if deemed necessary to keep the people ignorant of the true things that are going on in the outside world. This is the same with the time, since although it is different to Americans and whatnot, the fact of the matter is the time is what "Big Brother" says the time is. This all introduces a possible outcome of the future, even past 1984, that if we do not stand against totalitarianism together as one, not as separated factions of rich and poor with one ruling over the other, our lives could become this. This idea has changed the world's idea of government, therefore making this statement outrageous.

robin - 2009-01-31 14:32:37

"The sciolist has delusions of Godness." Cion by Zakes Mda

Jamie - 2009-02-04 18:39:45

The opening line to Irvine Walsh's novel Trainspotting is sadly not the same as the opening line to the film, it is: The sweat was lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling. Much less than more.

joel hanes - 2009-03-17 01:09:27

Listen : Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

anon - 2009-03-19 14:05:00

"If you're going to read this, don't bother. After a couple of pages, you won't want to be here. So forget it. Go away. Get out while you're still in one piece. Save yourself. There has to be something better on television. Or since you have so much time on your hands, maybe you could take a night course. Become a doctor. You could make something out of yourself. Treat yourself to a dinner out. Color your hair. You're not getting any younger." Choke by Chuck Palahniuk

Doug 4/3/09 - 2009-04-03 14:01:27

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS: No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

Talia - 2009-04-03 20:37:36

The first line of Trainspotting (the book, not the movie) is "The sweat wis lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling." The 'Choose Life' monologue was only in the film.

Syzygy - 2009-07-19 10:51:38

THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. AT LENGTH I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled -- but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong. -Edgar Allen Poe: The Cask of Amontillado-

Austenmaniac - 2009-10-26 19:52:20

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

red - 2009-12-09 01:02:27

"Like most people, I didn't meet and talk to Rant Casey until after he was dead." opening line of Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

Scout - 2009-12-16 14:01:37

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

rena - 2010-01-16 02:49:37

Those aren't Trainspotting's opening lines, those are from the movie adaptation. The novel begins with "The sweat was lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling."

magx - 2010-02-08 18:05:36

In case no one's noticed, those are NOT the opening lines of Trainspotting the novel. How sad to have that in your list and not have read the book, oh and for all you idiots a 24 hour clock does not chime. (heh - thought I'd join the tedious chorus just to see what it felt like to be a moron who has (1) either not READ THE THREAD!!! or (2) has no apprecation of perceptions laid down by genius and wants to nitpick over tiresome irrelevancies)

marQ - 2010-02-24 23:46:58

The sweat wis lashing ofay Sick Boy; he wis trembling. Ah wis just sitting thair, focusing oan the telly, tryin no tae notice the cunt. He wis bringing me doon. Ah tried tae keep ma attention oan the Jean-Claude Van Damme video. --Irvine Welsch, Trainspotting I will say this; the opening line of the movie was more interesting, just wasn't the opening line of the literature it was adapted from, agreed. Oh well... also, why does Factotum get so much play on this site? Good book, but Ham on Rye was so much better: The first thing I remember is being under something. It was a table, I saw a table leg, I saw the legs of the people, and a portion of the tablecloth hanging down. It was dark under there, I liked being under there. It must have been in Germany. I must have been between one and two years old. It was 1922. I felt good under the table. Nobody seemed to know I was there...

anthony - 2010-03-15 18:50:42

As a massive fan of Irvine Welsh i would like to point out that the choose life, choose a job speech is NOT the opening line of trainspotting it is in the middle of the book. it is infact the opening line of the movie. get it right.

thereader - 2010-03-20 17:15:12

"My father had a face that could stop a clock." -- The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Larry - 2010-04-07 21:11:11

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

T. H. Martin - 2010-07-16 19:47:53

"It was a dark and stormy night." -- Snoopy

Derek Sutter - 2010-07-26 23:39:14

"I remember with utter clarity the first great shock of my life". Trinity

Chaoist - 2010-08-06 06:43:16

"It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton." (-The Eye in the Pyramid; first book of the Illuminatus!-trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea)

Bilbo Baggins - 2010-08-22 04:19:47

My favourite is 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.' Some of the arguments here about 1984 are fantastic - They have the same level of intellectual disparity as the conversation with Bill Hicks and the waitress when she asks him 'What you reading for?'

Anonymous - 2010-08-31 19:02:48

Clocks don't strike 13 - a digital clock would read 13:00, but a clock that strikes the hour would always strike 1.

Ahem - 2010-11-19 20:28:49


trpnstn1 - 2010-11-20 04:41:37

Since I assume that this topic is only regarding fiction, I must express my joy at seeing the first lines of Genesis included!

oo1111111 - 2010-11-21 19:07:21

"Imagine shoving a cattle prod up a rhino's ass and shouting "April Fool",and hoping the rhino thinks it's funny. That's about how much fun it is hunting a vampire." Richard Kadrey "Kill The Dead" Hey I'm not saying it's literature, but still....

anon - 2010-11-23 03:57:05

@ brad d. By blood pudding I think you mean black pudding and by shortbread cookies I think you mean shortbread biscuits.

Glenn Duffee - 2010-12-03 20:15:12

My favorite opening line from an extraordinary literary work: "On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen." —from Riddley Walker (1980) by Russel Hoban.

I like this! - 2011-01-14 19:12:51

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.

Colspex - 2011-03-16 04:15:23
His name was Rambo, and he was just some nothing kid for all anybody knew, standing by the pump of a gas station at the outskirts of Madison, Kentucky. He had a long heavy beard, and his hair was hanging down over his ears to his neck, and he had his hand out trying to thumb a ride from a car that was stopped at the pump. To see him there, leaning on one hip, a Coke bottle in his hand and a rolled-up sleeping bag near his boots on the tar pavement, you could never have guessed that on Tuesday, a day later, most of the police in Basalt County would be hunting him down.
JWS - 2011-05-24 18:15:25

First line of Chapter 1 of The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe: The story so far: In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry, and has been widely regarded as a bad move. Douglas Adams, you are sorely missed!!

Evan - 2011-05-27 15:01:18

The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it. - A Bend in the River

Razor - 2011-08-20 20:22:02

Busted flat in Baton Rouge,headin for the trains, feelin nearly faded as my jeans.

DM2 - 2011-12-18 23:51:14
I would content that the truly most outrageous line is: "It's a pain in the ass waiting around for someone to try to kill you." Roger Zelazny (Trumps of Doom). While my favourite first line is: Let me tell you of the creature called the Bork. It was born in the heart of a dying sun. It was cast forth upon this day from the river of past/future as a piece of time pollution. It was fashioned of mud and aluminum, plastic and some evolutionary distillate of seawater. It had spun dangling from the umbilical of circumstance till, severed by its will, it had fallen a lifetime or so later, coming to rest on the shoals of a world where things go to die. It was a piece of a man in a place by the sea near a resort grown less fashionable since it had become a euthanasia colony.
lomerlaw - 2012-01-11 15:46:28
One for consideration: "Gearheardt and I were having lunch next to a pile of dead Laotians when he came up with his scheme to redeem ourselves with the Marine Corps and settle the score with the Cubans" from Nam-a-Rama by Phillip Jennings.
@anon 2008 - 2012-01-14 06:27:32

It is outrageous for the clocks to strike thirteen since clocks, i.e. the ones which strike, run by a 12-hour basis. When have you ever heard a church clock strike more than twelve? In sum, you are an idiot.

Anonymous - 2012-01-15 14:03:36

Those aren't the opening lines from Trainspotting. Read the book instead of just gawking at the film.

Anon - 2012-01-25 06:58:50
Trainspotting is the opening lines to the film jackass. The book starts "The sweat wis lashin oafay Sick boy
Rebecca - 2012-01-28 19:15:07

Wow! These are great! I especially liked the opening paragraph for trainspotting. As twisted as it is, I honestly couldn't stop reading. I'm now tempted to find a read the book. Thanks!

Steven - 2012-03-07 16:19:09
Have a look at for a complete list.
Chris - 2012-03-23 20:04:36
First the colors. Then the humans. That's usually how I see things. Or at least how I try. Here is a small fact. You are going to die. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
linda - 2012-05-05 17:08:54

The young boys came early to the hanging. Ken Follett, Pillars of the Earth.

ilz - 2012-06-19 11:54:58

this one I love, though not outrageous I think: "Six days ago, a man blew himself up by the side of a road in northern Wisconsin". Leviathan, by Paul Auster.

Paul - 2012-10-19 09:22:07

This is such a good list! I love how you chose Kafka as number 1, his writing really messes with your head and this line sums him up perfectly. I've done my own top 10 list, let me know what you think - I've got a few similar to you, but a lot different:

NCFOM - 2013-03-13 19:50:33

"I sent one boy to the gaschamber at Huntsville." -C.M.

Soldier Blue - 2013-05-25 15:35:03

Military time and railroad time - thirteen hundred hours, not just 'striking thirteen'.

Lauren Wills - 2014-03-15 22:23:45

Chiliad by Simon Otius, at unhappened [dot] com, is almost wholly written in notable sentences. Here is the opening sentence: "To avoid giving the impression, – most particularly here at the very gatehouse of this, for the most part, linear narrating of what is believed a remarkable enough history, one that may, — making its slow but inexorable way to credit, — challenge the very tenets of traditional biography, – that words, – generally believed good-fellows, merry men nearly all, – are already right eager, – by building a labyrinth of intricable mystery, – to confound the unwary reader at the very onset : it will prove very useful if a few, simple, but important facts, concerning the family Troke, and their seat, are first supplied."

Spider - 2014-07-14 05:17:25

The Trainspotting opening line is wrong.g That quote it is opening line of the film the actual line is "The sweat wis lashing oafay sick boy; He wis trembling.

Park Harper - 2015-03-30 16:31:39

Friendly note: the lines you've chosen to represent Trainspotting are the opening lines of the movie. The first line of the novel (also memorable and written in vernacular) is: "The sweat wis lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling."

Phil Schifley - 2015-06-26 15:19:29

"It was love at first sight." - Catch-22 Outrageous because it's such a cliché, and yet Heller turns it right on its head and proceeds to subvert every convention about people, love, life and war.

katmarie - 2016-01-07 13:49:16

"The South started killing Lucy Bondurant the day she was born. It does that to all its women." - Peachtree Road, Anne Rivers Siddons

Tom - 2017-06-01 02:13:01

huh .......?