or, Opening Lines

You only get one chance to make a good first impressionas they saySowith that in mindBrianetics gathered together a list of lines which introduced the world to the work that followedMany will be

familiarothers not so much, still others forgettable even though it precedes a work of sheer brilliance

Just for fun there will be a poll should you care to weigh in on best, worst, favorite etc.

Be light of heartdear readerthis time your reading will be done as 

soon as you finish reading this sentenceSo no couple hundred

chapters yet to go as with Moby Dick.

Now here's the first first line...

In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.

The Holy Bible - Genesis 1.1

Somehow, even though what is to follow is generally well-known - at least on a macro level - this ultimate opening line  still manages to stir curiosity in the reader. How's God going to top creating heaven and earth? And how is it all going to work, if it DOES work? What's God up to, anyway?

The Bible does not disappoint.


Call me Ishmael.

Moby Dick 

Herman Melville 1851

After Genesis 1.1, this is perhaps the most famous opening line in history, and it presents the reader with a hint of a separate story never told.  Why Call Me...instead of My Name Is...? What is this guy hiding from us?  We never did find out, and never will, either. Unless someone decides to pen a sequel.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. ― 1984 George Orwell, 1949

If the time that bright, cold April day being 13 wasn't enough to indicate something doubleplusungood was about to unfold, the fact that the CLOCKS - all of them, it is implied - were striking so everyone, everywhere would know the time. And where they ought to be, and what they ought to be doing. Or be erased from society, history and life itself.


Published in 1949, this was George Orwell's ninth and final novel. Obviously, Mr. Orwell saved his best for last.

"It was a dark and stormy night;

the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it
was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our
scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that
struggled against the darkness."
--Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

The clause in larger script and separated from the rest of its sentence was a deliberate construct to single out that first clause as it is the only part of the sentence anyone remembers.  In fact, it may rival - and even surpass Ishmael - for best known opening (part of a) sentence. Although, rather than a revered example of high literature, it is mocked as a piece of just awful writing. So much so that there is a contest held in it's dishonor, the winner of which submitted the worst opening line of any contestant. The Bulwer-Lytton Contest - a dark and stormy night is preferable to accolades for placing first in this burlesque of literary achievement.

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 direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” –Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities  1859

No, your eyes did not betray you; not hardly. That entire passage was just a single sentence. One. Of course, it is the opening line to the Dickens classic and one, some say, is the greatest introductory sentence of all time. Which will not be argued here.

Instead, the Brianetics Division of Numbering Stuff, Counting Stuff Up and Vertically Integrated Analytical Index Of Projected Net Sums has quantified this sentence in order to illustrate the magnitude of its complexity. The numbers are as follows:

495 characters

119 words

17 commas

1 dash

3 capitalizations but just one proper noun

Now THAT's a sentence. Of course, what makes it masterpiece of literary introduction is not its length nor grammatical complexity, but the way Dickens crafted it. He writes of the years surrounding the French Revolution, 1775-1789. Without belaboring the point nor foisting a ponderous, dreary, oppressive tract upon the reader, Dickens adroitly describes a generation indentured to a world in irreversible tumult and cloaked in such onerous despair they anxiously, desperately turn to The Church and look to The Crown for hope. Thus, the optimism, wisdom and light expected from the ruling bodies is counterpoised with the foolishness, darkness and misery the people receive instead. Yet that unfortunate time was (somehow regarded) as even worse than the 1859 of Dickens world. Which, it could be argued, gave hope to the citizens of 1859 feeling, as they did, that if the woes of 1775-1789 were overcome then so could those of 1859.


“Marley was dead, to begin with.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol  1843


And then there's this terse opening line from the Dickens classic.  Like the open to 1984 but eight words less this opening line informs the reader with clarity that this is going to be one bumpy Christmas. 


It was a pleasure to burn.

Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451


 Here again, in six words the reader has a palpable sense of a dread so abhorrent it could only be a scourge from Satan. ZIn Bradbury's dystopian future, books are outlawed and "firemen" are the employed to hunt down and incinerate every illegal book extant. It was published in 1953 when paranoia possessed a nation suddenly made aware Red Communist Ypotrylls had infested the State Department, to name just one. The country was being run by Marxist bureaucrats at the dawn of the Atomic and Space Ages, inciting an anti-intellectual backlash. But how much more relevant and damning is Fahrenheit 451 today? Rampant cancellation movements designed to ruin whoever seems - SEEMS - to side with the "autocratic fascist bigots" who arrest criminals. And the shamers, who likewise insist otherwise talented, respectful, respected and non-confrontational people are bullied into a series of public apologies over some misguided comment - often humor ill-conceived - made on social media during study hall sophomore year in high school.  But after the fourth apology the cannibal gorgons STILL insist, and effectuate, their target's firing from their work. These people cause more unemployment then The Crash Of '29. 

If only Bradbury were here to revise 451 to address the censorious penanggalans who are trying to rule the country through intimidation and the screeching rhetoric of empty-heads full of baseless outrage.






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All children except one grow up.

Peter Pan

James Barrie


Well now; finally an opening line without the portent of certain misery. On the other hand his ascertainment is faulty at best. Don't we all know at least one person who has yet to turn 20 even though the 10 year high school reunion was 15 years ago?  

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


Franz Kafka  1915

This begs the question: If Mr. Samsa woke up as a giant insect what, exactly, was in his dreams that made them so uneasy? He should have remained a-slumber,  it seems.

J.D. Salinger Catcher In The Rye 1951

What makes young Holden Caulfield think we care about him at all, let alone about all the things he churlishly declares he is unwilling to discuss? This opening line almost forces the reader to go on so as to find out just why Holden is so churlish.

The Trial

Franz Kafka

First Published: 1925

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.

So one day, out of the blue, poor Josef K is arrested for no reason: no reason at all. They just came and cuffed him and docketed a trial. Even though he was innocent of...everything. So, if innocent, someone must have framed him. Certainly, that had to be the case.

Really? THAT's Josef K's story? The dog ate my homework?! Please.

But the author almost forces the reader to accept the lone slanderer story since it informs Josef K's undeserved arrest and prosecution despite never knowing what the charges are nor how Josef K came to be the prime suspect in the commission of the unnamed crime. It is K's maddening crypto-Stasi persecution in the face of his innocence that drives the narrative.

If the reader sees any indication that Josef K is guilty, after all, his  difficulties would be considered well deserved rather than the inescapable dystopian nightmare they are. 

David Copperfield

Charles Dickens

Published as book 1850

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

Something is a little off here. If you didn't see it at first, read it again.  Take your time; Brianetics will wait for you. No hurry. Back already?, did you notice it? Did you find it odd, too? Odd that, to open his own autobiography, David Copperfield wondered whether he or elsewhom would be the hero of his life.

But he wrote the whole book - himself! - first page to last! So how could he be in doubt as to how his life turned out? Did he fail to read his own autobiography? Were the latter chapters ghostwritten?

Or was he just a witless poseur? Post all theories on the Comments Page.


"All this happened, more or less."

—Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut 1969


Quite possibly the perfect opening line.  It has the air of a fable yet from the title  the reader knows this is no Brothers Grimm children's morality tale.  The other thing about this opening line is its universiality.  Any story you share with your friends about work or that night at the bowling alley with Lori or when the power went out at High School graduation...any story at all could be prefaced by Vonnegut's opening line.

''We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.''

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1971), Hunter S. Thompson

This opening sentence makes readers feel they have somehow overlooked the beginning of the book yet the narrative on Page 1 is so beguiling they are compelled to continue despite their "What did I miss?" wonderment. After all, the narrator isn't sure where he and his companion are, save it's the edge of the desert - and the drugs are just kicking in. So whatever the back-story, finding out what drug-addled travelers are doing in the desert just has to be found out immediately.

Hunter S. Thompson has crafted a terse introductory that is near-perfect in foreshadowing all the fears and loathings he and his attorney experienced that weekend. Not all of them founded in reality.

Scholarship and debate by the Brianetics Panel on Literature, Literacy and Lighter, Racy Literature has determined this account of Dr. Thompson's Fear And Loathing weekend inspired "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas", though it was decades before it evolved from a whispered promise by Las Vegas casino management to the 21st Century Vegas motto of today.

The moment one learns English, complications set in. —Felipe Alfau, Chromos (1990)

No matter the content that follows, the opening line is almost inarguable. Here is what GOODREADS says about CHROMOS:

"Chromos is one of the true masterpieces of post-World War II fiction. Written in the 1940s but left unpublished until 1990, it anticipated the fictional inventiveness of the writers who were to come along - Barth, Coover, Pynchon, Sorrentino, and Gaddis. Chromos is the American immigration novel par excellence. As the novel illustrates, the moment one comes to America, the complications set in. The cast of characters in this book are immigrants from Spain who have one leg in Spanish culture and the other in the confusing, warped, unfriendly New World of New York City, attempting to meld two worlds that just won't fit together. Wildly comic, Chromos is also strangely apocalyptic, moving towards point zero and utter darkness."


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I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho' not of that Country, my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull; He got a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade, lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my Mother, whose Relations were named Robinson, a very good Family in that Country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual Corruption of Words in England, we are now called, nay we call our selves, and write our Name Crusoe, and so my Companions always call'd me. —Daniel Defoe,Robinson Crusoe(1719)

And to think this is merely the first line of Robinson Crusoe and not the book in toto. Nor is much of this comprehensive introductory line necessary to enjoy the following adventure. For the record, Brianetics Division of Numbering Stuff, Counting Stuff Up and Vertically Integrated Analytical Index Of Projected Net Sums made the following calculations: 604 characters, 111 words, 15 commas, 2 semicolons, and 25 capitalizations - not including the first word of the sentence - only 13 of which are proper nouns. Which makes it a close second to A Tale Of Two Cities.

Middle Passage - Charles Johnson 2015

The Brianetics Content Review & Revisions Right After Lunch Committee felt it prudent to provide the following Synopsis:

It is 1830. Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave and irrepressible rogue, is desperate to escape unscrupulous bill collectors and an impending marriage to a priggish schoolteacher. He jumps aboard the first boat leaving New Orleans, the Republic, a slave ship en route to collect members of a legendary African tribe, the Allmuseri. Thus begins a daring voyage of horror and self-discovery.
Peopled with vivid and unforgettable characters, nimble in its interplay of comedy and serious ideas, this dazzling modern classic is a perfect blend of the picaresque tale, historical romance, sea yarn, slave narrative, and philosophical novel.
Paperback published by Scribner 1998 (first published 1990) _________________________________________________________________________
So, here is a freed slave who somehow finds himself in an agonizing marriage which makes him feel enslaved again, though in a very different way. This opening line pretty much tells the reader all there is to know about the motives and sentiments of the protagonist. Besides which, it comes fairly close to being a universal truth, if the right men are polled by the right men.

Squire Trelawney, Dr Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17-, and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn, and the brown old seaman, with the sabre cut, first took up his lodging under our roof.

Treasure Island - 1883 Robert Louis Stevenson

Another elongated opening sentence, though not quite as prodigious as Tale of Two Cities or Robinson Crusoe it is still daunting with its 90 words and ten commas. It is also worthy to note that every staple of pirate lore we know today was invented by Stevenson in this book: the peg-leg old salt, buried treasure with a map, 16 men on a dead man's chest, the pirate flag etc.

Best line according to the Brianetics Panel on Literature, Literacy and Lighter, Racy Literature : "And them that die'll be the lucky ones." (pirate thug Long John Silver snarling angrily at the good  men of  The Hispanola for choosing battle over surrender.)

“In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there was to be found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talented, and yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point.” John Barth The Sot-weed Factor 1969


Yipes! Mr. Barth was not one to parse numerous words into a number of sentences, was he? This seemingly infinite sentence dawdles on with a startling 748 characters, 125 words, 12 commas, 4 hyphens and 11 capitalizations not including the first word, all of which would clearly put it ahead of the Dickens opener but for the fact Mr. Barth set out to do just that. No matter how good the imitation it, is still an imitation and you can't outpace Dickens with a copy. But if you fell tired reading just this first sentence then best get some exercise in as the entire book counts out to 50,000 words. All that for a parody of what were themselves social satires of their day such as Tom Jones by Henry Fielding and Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne.  Both of which are circuitous and exasperatingly dense...just as is this opus by John Barth, it seems.

“An abandoned auto court in the San Berdoo foothills; Buzz Meeks checked in with ninety-four thousand dollars, eighteen pounds of high-grade heroin, a 10-gauge pump, a .38 special, a .45 automatic, and a switchblade he’d bought off a pachuco at the border—right before he spotted the car parked across the line: Mickey Cohen goons in an LAPD unmarked, Tijuana cops standing by to bootsack his goodies, dump his body in the San Ysidro River.”

James Ellroy (pictured right)

L.A. Confidential 1997

Hmm...not exactly the kind of terse, rat-a-tat exposition one associates with hard-boiled, gumshoe-noir storytelling, is it? And at a hefty 75 words, 7 commas, 3 hyphens, 2 decimal points - DECIMAL POINTS! - and 1 dash, semi-colon and colon for a total of

368 characters, James Ellroy gave us quite an opening sentence. But he is quite the master of LA noir, and the only author Brianetics considers equal to the Great Raymond Chandler. His phrasing, mood, use of alley-slang, plot development are incomparable in the noir field of brass-knuckle fiction. Why he decided to leave the genre is just as much a mystery as those he penned.

And that's all there is to that.

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

Raymond Chandler (pictured right)

The Big Sleep 1939

Before anything is said, the inclusion of an entire paragraph rather than the opening line alone was not an oversight. As you see, this passage opens the first novel by Raymond Chandler, to whom our previous author, James Ellroy, was compared, if you recall. You see how Chandler is so much more spartan with his prose; where Ellroy used 75 words in one gulp, Chandler parceled out his opening penumbra so the reader has a chance to let the words waft over them. Once the climate is made clear, he then makes clear the climate - so to speak - of Philip Marlowe. We know what the day, then Philip Marlowe looks like and in the next sentence we have an idea as to what Marlowe's sensibilities look like. Notice, too, how the pace quickens with each sentence until it goes from an amiable stroll to a more urgent stride.

And it gets better with every page.

Sadly, Chandler only left us with 6 novels, a handful of novellas and a number of insightful essays before falling into his own Big Sleep March 26, 1959 at the age of 84.

And while Ellroy giving up his pen was a great loss, Raymond Chandler's death created a literary vacuum in the hard-boiled genre that lasts to this day.

RIP, will be a Long Goodbye for all who treasured your work.

Night is irregular. What is not done in the daytime becomes possible at night...murder and sex and thought.        Alexei Panshin       The Thurb Revolution 1968

After two consecutive masterworks of hard-boiled detective noir and its gritty argot, this opening line gives every indication it is heading down the mean streets of a third noir novel. Murder, sex and thought, for example, are emblematic of Philip Marlowe's LA grimscape.

But The Thurb Revolution not only falls outside the hard-boiled genre, it spirals beyond the parameters of the entire corporeal realm. Perfectly normal for a work of science fiction.

Anyway, The Thurb Revolution is a sci-fi-fantasy-adventure that takes place in some galactic travel epoch and follows one Anthony Villiers - the Viscount Charteris - and his large, orange-furred companion Torve the Trog - who is a dead ringer for Chewbacca, it seems. The plot is anfractuous yet engaging, peppered as it is with aphorisms from the opening line forward. And while that introductory sentence is memorable, it does nothing to prepare the reader for the narrative to follow. Although there is a subplot which involves the assassination of Anthony Villiers, so maybe it's a noir after all. 

I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the- other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as “Claudius the Idiot,” or “That Claudius,” or “Claudius the Stammerer,” or “Clau-Clau-Claudius” or at best as “Poor Uncle Claudius,” am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the “golden predicament” from which I have never since become disentangled.” –

Robert Graves, I, Claudius 1934

And yet another interminable opening sentence, this one in first-person by a madman. Well, not a genuine madman but the author - Robert Graves - writing in the first-person of the Roman Emperor Claudius, considered by many Romans to be addle-minded and weak growing up. His uncle was Emperor Tiberius and his nephew was that gladitorial cut-up, Caligula. So had he actually been crazy no one would wonder how he got that way.

But it is time once again to see what the Brianetics Division of Numbering Stuff, Counting Stuff Up and Vertically Integrated Analytical Index Of Projected Net Sums has to say about this prodigious opener.

The tally may not approach Mr. Dickens' epic in any significant way but Brianetics feels the I, Claudius open used enough ink to qualify as breathtaking, literally. The numbers are as follows:

116 words

575 characters

24 capitalizations - 24! -

8 commas,

7 hyphens - 7! -

6 sets of quotation marks and

1 set of parentheses.

Which does not say much of anything about Rome's fourth emperor but what kind of amphetamine was Mr. Graves using for his mind to design a very nervous sentence like that? Had Claudius access to amphetamines he likely would have been held in greater stead rather than as a fidgety dimwit.

And that's all there is to that.

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. —G. K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

This opening line seems a bit cheeky, as G.K. Chesterton snipes at his own readership for being immature, to say the least. But as this was his first novel, how many readers could he have had? Is he bragging before the fact? Perhaps he was, since it is regarded as the best first novel of the

20th Century. But while this first line is spun from such gossamer whimsy it feels like it is being read to you rather than by you, it hardly prepares the reader for the farce to follow. First of all, published in 1904 it is set in an alternate reality of 1984 London where little but the social order has changed. Here is what Goodreads says about it:

"In a London of the future, the drudgery of capitalism and bureaucracy have worn the human spirit down to the point where it can barely stand. When a pint-sized clerk named Auberon Quinn is randomly selected as head of state, he decides to turn London into a medieval carnival for his own amusement. One man, Adam Wayne, takes the new order of things seriously, organizing a Notting Hill army to fight invaders from other neighborhoods. At first his project baffles everyone, but eventually his dedication proves infectious, with delightful results."

For more on The Napoleon of Notting Hill click the napoleon of notting hill summary - Search (

"Her gynecologist recommended him to me."

 John Irving, The water-Method Man  1972

Now what exactly is going on here? Was "her gynecologist" playing match-maker for a patient's lonely friend? Or were "her" and the narrator both seeing the same ob-gyn? Or is the narrator gay and "her" ob-gyn happened to have an eligible gay friend?

The mind swims with the endless permutations radiating from that 6-word opening sentence.

This was only John Irving’s second novel but he already perfected his trade-mark unpredictable to the absurd narrative style. What reader could remain indifferent to the intriguing private lives of these characters, after all.

Those familiar with Mr. Irving’s later works certainly recognize the tenor of this second of his books if not the book itself. The vagaries of popular literature made The World According To Garp, Hotel New Hampshire, Cider-House Rules and other books in that later string of acclaimed novels more well-known though of lesser quality than The Water-Method Man.

That’s what movie deals will do for an author.

Still, how curious that Irving’s best work is hardly associated with him, let alone being adapted for film. Not to mention it’s absence from many audio book libraries, though A Prayer For Owen Meany is an easy find.

For the curious, Brianetics has provided the following link to sites dedicated to all things The Water-Method Man.

The Water-Method Man - Wikipedia

The Water-method Man (豆瓣) (

The Water-Method Man - King County Library System - OverDrive

Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.

Margaret Mitchell

Gone With The Wind 1936

This initial description of the most famous Southern Belle of all time subtly informs the reader that Scarlett O'Hara is not using grace and beauty and the batting of eyes to get whatever she wants or needs. Oh, no. She uses wit and guile and a devious charm, sinister manipulation and predatory deceit to negotiate Civil War-Reconstruction Georgia. Much like Cleopatra, in a way, as Cleopatra was hardly a looker yet had Caesar and Antony ready to present her The World. Literally.

The opening also makes the reader curious as to what this Scarlett girl had. Since she was about as attractive as a well-bucket, what was it that made even the Tarleton twins go a-swoon over her? Not to mention Rhett Butler.

The reader has to know, which makes this opener a template for setting up a narrative.

What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?

Erich Segal, Love Story 1970

This introductory with its three cloying elegies - youth, death, grief - fairly compels the reader to continue in order to find out what happened to the young girl and grieve with the decedent's family and friends. It never occurs to the reader that the opening line intimates there is nothing one can say in this circumstance yet goes on for 131 pages saying just about everything that can be said. Interestingly, Erich Segal first sold the screenplay of rich-poor doomed lovers to Paramount Pictures. The studio then asked Mr. Segal to novelize his screenplay as part of marketing for the film, which he did. Love Story was an overwhelming popular success upon release, spending 41 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, peaking at #!. 

 It was also nominated for a National Book Award, but was withdrawn when the judges threatened to resign. William Styron, head judge for fiction that year, called it "a banal book which simply doesn't qualify as literature" and suggested that even its nomination would demean all the other novels under consideration.

 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.

Laurence Sterne,Tristram Shandy (1759–1767)

Whew! That was a single sentence, in case your vision blurred 80 words in and you mistook a comma(,) for a period(.).  Such a prodigious opening line did Laurence Sterne craft that the Brianetics Division of Numbering Stuff, Counting Stuff Up and Vertically Integrated Analytical Index Of Projected Net Sums was once again sent unto the breach for this accounting of the inaugural line to Tristram Shandy, which consisted of:

145 words

650 characters

9 commas

3 semicolons

4 dashes

1 colon

i capitalization that is not a proper noun

So not enough to unseat Mr. Dickens' " of times" monolith but worthy of notice. It certainly explains why Shandy took 9 volumes to complete, publishing over 8 years.

It purports to be a biography of the eponymous character. Its style is marked by digressiondouble entendre, and graphic devices and 

while the use of the narrative technique of stream of consciousness is usually associated with modernist novelists, Tristram Shandy has been suggested as a precursor. 

For more information on Tristram Shandy visit The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman - Wikipedia

“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”             – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein 1818



NOTE: The first edition of Frankenstein was published as Anonymous. Only with the second English edition in 1823 was Mary Shelley (below) credited as the book's author on its title page. 

The real monster has to be whomever tutored Mary Shelley in syntax and grammar. Or the demented lab assistant - more specifically, the editor who let that oblique torn string of beads in the marble hall clatter unabated.

It may have made perfect sense in 1818, but this Gothic hedge maze of an opening line reads like a Yaifo shaman speaking in Braille while chewing some Bazooka. Plus, it fails to even vaguely hint at the proceedings that follow and the only curiosity it likely instilled in the reader concerned how to figure out what Ms. Shelley was trying to say.

And it was tidy 3-volumes in 1818. Imagine trying to peruse 3-volumes of sentences like that first.


 If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.
—Saul Bellow, Herzog (1964)

Here is a perfect example of Universal Introspection, for there cannot be many people who have not held the very thought Moses Herzog shares with the reader at the very outset of his recollection. To explain the obvious, Mr. Bellow's first line immediately hooks the reader: Is Herzog out of his mind or not? And why is it all right with him? Why is he so unfazed by his psychosis? Or psychoses?

The following account of Herzog's struggles with self-doubt, mid-life crisis, fear of commitment along with a phantasmagoria of personal problems with ex-wives, step-mothers, his daughter etc will serve to make the reader question their own reality; own sanity. But it will be all right with them.