by Alan Bisbort
As Ward Cleaver always said, “Boys, you never get a second chance to make a first impression”.
1. “I am an Antichrist / I am an anarchist / Don’t know what I want / But I know how to get it.”
The first line from the Sex Pistols’ first single, released in Dec. 1976, a record that changed rock ‘n’ roll. The media scorned them, stores refused to stock the single, they were overnight sensations.
2. “Happy families are all alike: every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
The opening line from Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, reflecting the author’s own home life. (Download free ebook from Gutenberg.org)
3. “I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons…”
The first line from William S. Burroughs’ breakthrough novel, The Naked Lunch. The novel was first published in Paris in 1959, its U.S. publication delayed by a protracted legal battle over its alleged obscenity. When it finally appeared, in 1996, the title had been shortened to Naked Lunch.
4. “Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side…and don’t be stingy, baby.”
This was the first line spoken by Greta Garbo in a “talking picture,” Anna Christie (1930), a film version of the Eugene O’Neill play. Garbo, known as “The Swedish Sphinx” for her disdain of the press, was one of the few movie stars who made the transition from silent films.
5. “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
Henry Morton Stanley was a reporter who spent eight months tracking through Africa to find David Livingstone, a British physician, missionary and explorer who had left in 1866 to find “the source of the Nile.” By 1869, no one had heard from him. Stanley was sent by the New York Herald to try to track him down. He succeeded.
6. “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
The opening to Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, one of the most disturbing works in literature. Of this work, Kafka noted in his diary, it “came out of me like a real human birth, covered with dirt and slime.”
7. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
The often quoted, and deceptively loaded, opening sentence to Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice. Though it was her second published novel, Pride and Prejudice was the first one she wrote; completed in 1797 (and rejected by a publisher), it would not be published until 1813.
8. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
The opening sentence of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four perfectly captures the chilling meditation on totalitarianism that this work is. Everything in the land of Big Brother has been altered: the language, the laws, even the hours of the clock.
9. “All right, Curly, enough’s enough. You can’t eat the Venetian blinds. I just had them installed on Wednesday.”
Jack Nicholson, as the private eye Jake Gittes, says this to open Chinatown (1974), arguably the finest film noir film of them all. Gittes is speaking to a distraught client who has just been shown compromising photographs of his wife taken by Gittes’ staff.
10. “Call me Ishmael.”
The opening line from arguably the greatest American novel, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851).