Today I was reading Gawker’s (NSFW) list of The 50 Best First Sentences in Fiction. A lot of great books made the list, and several that I have never read pulled me in and made me want to pick up the book to get the rest of the story.
Any list like that should come with a disclaimer that includes who it was that put the books on the list, the fact that all of the books are in English, and why they completely ignored Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. (I mean, come on. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”? That should have been at the top of the list.) Actually, there’s no way anybody could collect the 50 best... anything in fiction. It’s like when someone says something silly like, “I don’t like people,” and their friend responds, “well that’s not fair; have you met all of them?” Nobody could read everything in the world. This list is more like “the 50 best first sentences in the fiction written in English that will probably be considered classic literature in another 50 years or so.”
It was an interesting list to read, and interesting to think about what it would be like to have written a sentence that made the list. For a while, I thought about what it would be like to see my name on a list like that. Then, I thought about what my sentence might be. Then, I thought about what kind of book I would write that would get the kind of attention to make any kind of “best” list. Then, I thought about the best sentences I’ve written so far. So I decided to go back and make my own list, featuring myself (no bias allowed). So, without further ado, I present: “The 5 Best First Sentences in Fiction Written by Patricia Livermore in the Last Year or So (compiled by Patricia Livermore).”
“It was 1 AM and I was walking down the middle of the street lopsided.” from Pumpkin-Carriageless, March 10, 2015
“It was the oldest story in the world: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, for the sake of girl boy immediately dumps perfectly good girlfriend, perfectly good ex-girlfriend reveals her desire for revenge.” from Typical Love Story, November 18, 2014
“The strains of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s hit flowed from his back pocket as he knelt, looking up into her eyes, which had been slowly filling with happy tears.” from The Perfect Moment, October 7, 2014
“The Tower has always been here.” from The Changing of the Seasons, August 6, 2014
“A strange occurrence in downtown Lisbon last Friday had employees of a local electronics company assembling a human ladder to verify strange reports of a dragon in the area.” from Portuguese Dragons, January 15, 2014
This list was fun to put together! It’s always interesting to me to go back and read things I’ve written before, because I get to feel a fun mix of “wow, that’s ridiculous; why did I write that?” and “oh yeah, I forgot; I am hilarious!” After reading the first line, I would, of course, have to read the rest of the story, and then I would get to remember all the fun I had writing it: all the times I giggled to myself, made myself cry, or stayed up until the wee hours putting the finishing touches on it.
I love my job. I don’t get paid, but that’s okay. If none of my first sentences ever make it onto a “50 Best” list, I don’t care. Those things are usually rigged anyway, and it’s always easy to tell which ones are: the ones that leave out Jane Austen.