The Parks Department in my nice little town in southern California trucks in snow from the nearby San Gabriel Mountains to Memorial Park on Foothill Boulevard for our kids to play in. They dump two large mounds of snow—one for big kids, one for the little ones—onto the grass so that California children, growing up in this warm-blooded paradise of ours, can know what snow is like.
So on a beautiful, sunny, mid-70s Saturday afternoon, I took Calder to play in the snow…and discover ice. Which got me thinking about one of my favorite first lines in all of literature:
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
That first line by Gabriel García Márquez from ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE sets the stage for his great novel of time-displacement and intergenerational fantasia perfectly.
Which got me thinking about Great First Lines in Literature.
(Anything to keep my mind off the GOP Tax Reform monstrosity, Mike Flynn, and what’s in the White House)
Some of these first lines come from all-time favorite novels of mine:
“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.” —Samuel Beckett, MURPHY
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” —George Orwell, 1984
“Stupidity is not my strong point.” – Paul Valery, MONSIEUR TESTE
“I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.” —Saul Bellow, THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” —Vladimir Nabokov, LOLITA
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, ANNA KARENINA
“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.” —J. D. Salinger, THE CATCHER IN THE RYE
“This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” —Ford Madox Ford, THE GOOD SOLDIER
“I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man.” —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND