Aug 2010

First lines quiz

Books this time. Regular readers will recall the occasional quizzes I set where I list the first lines of a bunch of songs and invite you to guess the titles. Well, this time, prompted by Paul over at The Whole Damn World, I’ve decided to list the first lines of a bunch of books (both fiction and non-fiction) and see how good your memories are. Some are obvious, others far less so. Feel free to use google if you need to, but don’t post google-sourced answers in the comments.

Introductions, prefaces and prologues have been omitted, these are all “Line 1 Chapter 1″s. The first one is also the first one on Paul’s list, but it’s a great line to get the ball rolling. Also, there’s no more than one from any particular author.


  1. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.1984: George Orwell – Paul
  2. Later than usual one summer morning in 1984, Zoyd Wheeler drifted awake in sunlight through a creeping fig that hung in the window, with a squadron of blue jays stomping around on the roof.Vineland: Thomas Pynchon – Nosemonkey
  3. Daniel Pearse was born on the rainy dawn of March 15, 1966.
  4. I didn’t know that afternoon that the ground was waiting to become another grave in just a few short days.So The Wind Won’t Blow It All Away: Richard Brautigan – m’hoop
  5. Everyone now knows how to find the meaning of life within himself.
  6. In the year 1815 Monseigneur Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of Digne.
  7. I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.On The Road: Jack Kerouac – Paul
  8. The day had gone by just as days go by.
  9. May I, Monsieur, offer my services without running the risk of intruding?
  10. Something has happened to me: I can’t doubt that any more.
  11. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.Ulysses: James Joyce – Nosemonkey
  12. That’s good thinking there, Cool Breeze.The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test: Tom Wolfe – Paul
  13. Back in the late 1970s, when I was fifteen years old, I spent every penny I then had to fly across the continent in a 747 jet to Brandon, Manitoba, deep in the Canadian prairies, to witness a total eclipse of the sun.
  14. One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it — it was the black kitten’s fault entirely.Through The Looking Glass: Lewis Carroll – Larry’s Mum
  15. The year 1866 was marked by a strange occurrence, an unexplained and inexplicable phenomenon that surely no one has forgotten.
  16. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald – m’hoop
  17. In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.A Farewell To Arms: Ernest Hemingway – m’hoop
  18. That was when I saw the Pendulum.Foucault’s Pendulum: Umberto Eco – Nosemonkey & Larry
  19. Save the albatross…! Stop nuclear testing now…!
  20. The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.Neuromancer: William Gibson – Gyrus
  21. This time there would be no witnesses.Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: Douglas Adams – m’hoop
  22. Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes.War and Peace: Tolstoy – Nosemonkey & Larry
  23. At a certain village in La Mancha, which I shall not name, there lived not long ago one of those old-fashioned gentlemen who are never without a lance upon a rack, an old target, a lean horse, and a greyhound.Don Quixote: Cervantes – Nosemonkey
  24. Listen to my last words anywhere.Nova Express: William S. Burroughs – Gyrus
  25. My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the third of five sons.Gulliver’s Travels: Jonathan Swift – Nosemonkey
  26. At nine o’clock in the morning, towards the end of November, the Warsaw train was approaching Petersburg at full speed.The Idiot: Dostoevsky – Nosemonkey (half point for author but not book!)
  27. Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair.A Scanner Darkly: Philip K. Dick – Gyrus
  28. The sweat wis lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling.Trainspotting: Irvine Welsh – Paul
  29. The chimes of San Salvatore broke into Josef Breuer’s reverie.
  30. May it please heaven that the reader, emboldened and having for the time being become as fierce as what he is reading, should, without being led astray, find his rugged and treacherous way across the desolate swamps of these sombre and poison-filled pages; for, unless he brings to his reading a rigorous logic and a tautness of mind equal at least to his wariness, the deadly emanations of this book will dissolve his soul as water does sugar.Maldoror: LautrĂ©amont – Howard


  1. In your schooldays most of you who read this book made acquaintance with the noble building of Euclid’s geometry, and you remember — perhaps with more respect than love — the magnificent structure, on the lofty staircase of which you were chased about for uncounted hours by conscientious teachers.Relativity: Albert Einstein – UKLiberty
  2. Among the incivilities by which nations or individuals provoke and irritate each other, Mr Burke’s pamphlet on the French Revolution is an extraordinary instance.The Rights of Man: Thomas Paine – Nosemonkey
  3. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.The Communist Manifesto: Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels – Paul
  4. All states, all dominions that have had and continue to have power over men were and still are either republics or principalities.The Prince: Machiavelli – Nosemonkey
  5. It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.
  6. Daughter: Daddy, why do things get in a muddle?Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Gregory Bateson – Gyrus
  7. All five elements basic to the study reported here — population, food production, industrialization, pollution, and consumption of nonrenewable natural resources — are increasing.The Limits to Growth: The Club of Rome – Phil
  8. When I was six months old, my parents moved from Kesswil on Lake Constance to Laufen, the castle and vicarage above the Falls of the Rhine.
  9. “Long long ago, when wishing still could lead to something, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, who had seen so many things, simply marveled every time it shone on her face.
  10. My research has led me to the realization that repetition automatism (Wiederholungszwang) has its basis in what I have called the insistence of the signifying chain.

Have at it.

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