In the world of literature and creative writing, one of the things that matter the most, according to some specialists, is the opening paragraph. It should be catchy, engaging, interesting, addictive and powerful enough to keep you hooked to the book and start your journey through the story. There is not one list of famous literary openings, but dozens, and while many agree that some lines are the best in history, others come up with even more and more examples, from classic literature to contemporary one.
However, there are some less known book openings you should know about and be able to say to whom they belong. This doesn’t have to do with you playing cool and educated and throwing a book quote randomly in a conversation, just to show how smart, educated and superior you are, but has everything to do with you being able to have a conversation about famous book openings and go beyond the classic “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” or “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” These classics made history, indeed, but let’s take a look at others too. Here are 3 less known book openings you should know to whom they belong and how really famous they are for certain people.
1. The Favorite Game by Leonard Cohen
Of course you know famous musician Leonard Cohen wrote a bunch of novels and some poetry collections, right? And that The Favorite Game is a masterpiece easily comparable with J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, right? Well, this is how The Favorite Game begins and it is a beautiful introduction in the universe of innocence that Cohen has created.
“Breavman knows a girl named Shell whose ears were pierced so she could wear the long filigree earrings. The punctures festered and now she has a tiny scar in each earlobe. He discovered them behind her hair.
A bullet broke into the flesh of his father’s arm as he rose out of a trench. It comforts a man with coronary thrombosis to bear a wound taken in combat.
On the right temple Breavman has a scar which Krantz bestowed with a shovel. Trouble over a snowman. Krantz wanted to use clinkers as eyes. Breavman was and still is against the use of foreign materials in the decoration of snowmen. No woolen mufflers, hats, spectacles. In the same vein he does not approve of inserting carrots in the mouths of carved pumpkins or pinning on cucumber ears.
Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh. It is easy to display a wound, the proud scars of combat. It is hard to show a pimple.”
2. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
This should be not be among the less known book openings you should know, because it is quite famous. Perhaps mostly among those who study literature and the mystery niche in detail, but this opening still stands the test of time when analyzed and is still given as example when teaching students and debutant authors on how they should start. It inspired other crime novelists after Chandler to carry on his legacy and it is still considered perfect as literary technique. It was Chandler’s debut novel, so imagine the skills the man had, if his opening paragraph is still one of the most powerful in mystery / thriller literature.
“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.“
3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
We sure hoped you heard about her and read this book, and if you didn’t, you should give it a try. A book reviewer on Goodreads commented once that even if he read this book ten years ago, the opening paragraph is still fresh and powerful in his mind. The book is amazing and was described as such not only by the critics but the readers as well. You can almost taste, feel, see, hear and smell the universe Roy is creating from the first lines, and this is just the beginning.
“May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.
The nights are clear, but suffused with sloth and sullen expectation.”
Do you have your favorite book opening paragraphs that are considered less known and you believe they deserve to become famous? Share them with us!