Of the five listed, there is only one title here that was published after 2000. I think I was too into Confessions of a Shopaholic and the like to have amassed a good collection of favourite first lines in the 21st century. If you look at the titles, you’ll see a typical girl’s collection, definitely not the consummate reader who reads widely and well. Actually, my favourite authors are not even mentioned here, Edith Wharton, and CS Lewis, among them. Weird.
Only I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighbourhoods. — Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1958
Of course I saw the Audrey Hepburn movie first, and must have been between 16 and 18, because I didn’t get, and thus hated, the ending. How come Audrey Hepburn didn’t end up with George Peppard? And of course, her acoustic version of Moon River has stayed with me ever since, along with her chic dresses from Hubert de Givenchy. The book I finally picked up in my 20s, but fully comprehending Capote seemed to elude me then. He has so much depth and layers to his writing, I only appreciated it at its sunlit levels then. Ok, so I have to read them again. A classic case of so many books, so little time.
I’m sitting cross-legged in the bush with Charlie, deep in the Mekong Delta, drinking Vietnamese moonshine from a plastic cola bottle. — Anthony Bourdain, A Cook’s Tour, 2001
This guy writes the way he talks: entertainingly gritty and concise with a fully-engaged b-s detector that is on 24/7. He demystified the world of restaurants and kitchens in America, and turned a harsh spotlight on the New York restaurant scene with awesome candour.
In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. — Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It, 1976
I had to get the book after I saw the movie of the same name, which introduced Brad Pitt to the world in 1992. The film version uses a great classic film narrative that has stood the test of time in this era of visual effects, gimmicks, stunts, designer props, costumes, and sophisticated scores. The book is a modern American classic, a door into another world and time.
Cigars had burned low, and we were beginning to sample the disillusionment that usually afflicts old school friends who meet again as men and find themselves with less in common than they used to think. –James Hilton, Lost Horizon, 1933
I always thought it implausible that our Shangri-La places books by a guy named Hilton in their suites for guests to take home. It wasn’t an easy book to get through, but you have to admit the first line is rather promising.
“I have been here before,” I said; I had been there before; first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June, when the ditches were white with fool’s-parsley and meadowsweet and the air heavy with all the scents of summer; it was a day of peculiar splendour, such as our climate affords once or twice a year, when leaf and flower and bird and sun-lit stone and shadow seem all to proclaim the glory of God; and though I had been there so often, in so many moods, it was to that first visit that my heart returned on this, my latest.
–Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder, 1944
Magnificent first line, which beguilingly becomes a paragraph through skillful punctuation and a keen sense of rhythm; the sign of a master. I was only 14 at the time, so the genteel Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews) was probably the only reason I tuned in to the series at 10pm at night. That and his teddy bear, Aloysius. Twenty years later, this 1981 TV series was ranked tenth on a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes compiled by the British Film Institute. I need to get hold of the boxed set soon.