54 great opening lines: 28

Let me lay it out for you: a rural photography competition in a local town hall and the woman next to me, sitting with her husband and two children, had travelled three hours to be there. 8 x 10 colour enlargements $16.50, Cate Kennedy ***** I heard this poem read on the radio.  With ‘Let… Continue reading


54 great opening lines: 27

One day in the spring of 1998, Bluma Lennon bought a secondhand copy of Emily Dickinson’s poems in a bookshop in Soho, and as she reached the second poem on the first street corner, she was knocked down by a car. The Paper House, Carlos María Domínguez (Trans. Nick Caistor) ***** This is a small… Continue reading


54 great opening lines: 26

The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells ***** Yesterday I posted the opening line of… Continue reading


54 great opening lines: 25

I am an invisible man. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison ***** Last week I pulled this book from a friend’s shelf and began reading.  Great opening line, I thought, but why don’t I remember it?  After I’d read a couple of pages I realised the book was not what I thought it was, The Invisible Man… Continue reading


54 great opening lines: 24

The verb ‘to read’ does not tolerate the imperative, an aversion it shares with a few others:  ‘to love’ … ‘to dream’ … Like a Novel (originally Comme un roman), Daniel Pennac (my translation) ***** I’ve read this book in French.  On the back cover is a list of ten rights of a reader, which… Continue reading


54 great opening lines: 23

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’ The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald *****… Continue reading



54 great opening lines: 21

When Gregor Samsa awoke from troubled dreams one morning, he found that he had been transformed in his bed into an enormous bug. Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka (Trans. by Stanley Appelbaum) ***** Sometimes I have to read a piece of literature in order to teach it.  This one for example.  I’d avoided Metamorphosis all my life… Continue reading


54 great opening lines: 20

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore – While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping – rapping at my chamber door. The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe ***** Today I’m working on a translation… Continue reading


54 great opening lines: 19

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez ***** Some books have a title that tempts me to turn to the blurb;  this is one of them.  And then, even… Continue reading