7 Reasons These Opening Lines Are Not Classics
It is said that the following seven opening lines are some of the best written. I disagree. In fact I believe them to be vastly overrated. This is why.
1. “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 Prejudice. Jane Austen. 1813. I think one only has to look at the case of Sir Elton John to realise that this is not a truth universally acknowledged at all. Nor is it acknowledged locally.*
2. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984. George Orwell. 1949. Bollocks. I suppose the sundial was pointing to half-past twenty-seven too.
3. “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.” The Old Man And The Sea. Ernest Hemmingway. 1952. If the old man doesn’t have the sense to move to a different location after eighty-four days then I fail to see how I am going to be inspired by his intelligence for the ensuing chapters. Nor his fishing technique.
4. “It was love at first sight.” Catch-22. Joseph Heller. 1961. Now I am a romantic. I know this because I have Notting Hill and Love Actually on DVD, but I can’t believe in love at first sight. Lust, yes. Nausea, certainly. But not love. This wasn’t love. It was just a deep attraction to this person’s physical appearance. I assume it was a person. I didn’t get beyond the line to find out. It could have been a new toaster. But even so, it wasn’t love.
5. “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” Dodie Smith. I Capture The Castle. 1948. I suppose I should have had an idea what to expect when I read the title. This book is about a drug addict. Who owns a large sink. Not for me.
6. “When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventyifirst birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.” The Fellowship Of The Rings. J.R.R Tolkein. 1954. How the hell did this get made into a film? In fact, how the hell did it get made into a book? For two years I have been trying to get my book published and I can guarantee you my first line makes more bloody sense than this rubbish. The next 10,000 lines maybe not, but the first line definitely.
7. “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.” Charles Dickens. A Tale Of Two Cities. 1859. I don’t know whether Mr. Dickens is being hypocritical on purpose here or just can’t make his bloody mind up. Poxy fence sitters. I bet this was on the Liberal Democrats reading list in the pre-Nick Clegg days. It’s probably been replaced by something with a nice cover now.**
*This is not a subtle attempt to come out. I’m not coming out. Because I don’t need to. And that’s not because I have come out in the past. I haven’t. Mainly because I don’t think like Sir Elton John.***
**The Conservative Party’s book of choice is, Slaughterhouse-Five, while Labour’s is, The Catcher In The Rye. You can look up the first lines.
***So, to sum up, I’m straight.