Monday, 24 September 2012

Literature's Greatest Opening Paragraphs

ShortList recently featured a blog on literature's greatest opening paragraphs. They included, among other books, The Witches by Roald Dahl, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Which opening paragraphs would you add?

I'd like to add the opening to Veniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer:

Let me tell you why I wished to buy a meerkat from at Quin's Shanghai Circus. Let me tell you about the city: The city is sharp, the city is a cliché performed with cardboard and painted sparkly colors to disguise the empty centre—the hole.
Although I'm wary of calling anything the 'greatest' (as that's necessarily subjective), I found this opening (and, indeed, the first few pages) ripe and fecund. I think that direct voice has undoubtedly had an influence on my writing. Reading it back now, after several years, I can see I've opened with that 'Let me tell you line' in poetry before, and clearly I nabbed it from Jeff. Even though this is prose, it does feel a lot like poetry. I like that. Prose writers can learn a lot from the discipline of poetry.

Add your own recommendations for great, or interesting, opening paragraphs in the comments section below (if you care to). I'll add some more suggestions in future too.

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