10 Best Opening Lines Of All Time

Forget those boring guides to the best opening lines in books compiled by cruds who either draw solely on canonical literary novels and/or recent bestsellers. This is the real deal and I haven’t restricted myself to book length works either!

  1. “I probably never would have become America’s leading fire-eater if Flamo the Great hadn’t happened to explode that night in front of Krinko’s Great Combined Carnival Side Shows.” Daniel P. Mannix Memoirs Of A Sword Swallower.
  2. “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism.” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels The Communist Manifesto.
  3. “When I was nine years old I burned down my school.” James Carr Bad.
  4. “When I was 40 I decided I wanted to meet my (m)other.” Stewart Home Tainted Love.
  5. “The first time I ever laid eyes on the fabled novelty item known as Leaping Panty Hose, I felt my third, or inner, eye pop open on a glowing sphere of revelation that seemed as miraculous as it was coincidental.” Blaster Al Ackerman Revelation of the Leaping Panty Hose.
  6. “A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father.” Ann Quin Berg.
  7. “At some point, almost everyone asks me how I first made the connection between speech therapy and oral sex.” Marcy Michaels Blow Him Away: How to Give Him Mind-Blowing Oral Sex.
  8. “I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly consider’d how much depended upon what they were then doing;–that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;–and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost;–had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,–I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that in which the reader is likely to see me.” Laurence Sterne The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.
  9. “Now the shadow of the column – the column that supports the south-west corner of the roof – divides the corresponding corner of the veranda into two equal parts.” Alain Robbe-Grillet Jealousy.
  10. ” ‘Victory! It flies! I am master of the Powers of the Air at last!’ They were strange words to be uttered, as they were, by a pale, haggard, half-starved looking young fellow in a dingy, comfortless room on the top floor of a South London tenement-house; and yet there was a triumphant ring in his voice, and a clear, bright flush on his thin cheeks that spoke at least for his own absolute belief in their truth. ” George Griffith The Angel of the Revolution.
    And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Boz Boswell on 2012-07-12 18:04:20 +0000

I used to sell books all over the country from the back of a mobile library van. It was a shit job that could’ve been great. What saved it from being completely unbearable was an audiobook of Mannix’ ‘Memoirs Of A Sword Swallower’ that I’d play over and over again. GREAT opening line.

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-07-12 18:20:53 +0000

They are good ones. Also my prize winning effort for The Norfolk Fire Bridage ‘Aunt Mary had always been a bit-lackadaisical’. Concerns a short story where Aunt Mary burnt the house down. Won me 25 quid! As I was a penniless provincial child this was riches!

Comment by Boz Boswell on 2012-07-12 18:36:33 +0000

There were two other cassettes on heavy rotation, the BBC audiobook of Victorian and Edwardian letters to The Shooting Times and a compilation tape of Canray Fontenot. I can’t remember the opening lines from those, though…

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-07-12 19:37:44 +0000

And everyone will have their own list of best opening lines…. If I put one together again tomorrow it would probably be different – although I think you’d always have to include Memoirs Of A Sword Swallower and of course Blow Him Away, what an opening line for a guide to giving better blow jobs!

Comment by Boz Boswell on 2012-07-12 20:44:18 +0000

I read a speech/therapy/pronunciation guide once that pointed out how geographical and climatic (sp?) differences effected peoples’ speech and accent patterns… I wonder if it effects their oral delivery in other ways..?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-07-12 21:30:36 +0000

We’ll have to dream up an opening line for a book of regional differences in oral sex according to speech pattern! Maybe even write the whole book!

Comment by Boz Boswell on 2012-07-12 22:01:46 +0000

“At some point, almost everyone asks me how I first made the connection between Glam Rock and genital chafing.”
I’m thinking Brummies might be having the best oral sex… And a Geordie nosh might be quite painful. I’m booking a holiday in Durban…

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-07-12 22:16:17 +0000

Why re Midlanders?

Comment by Boz Boswell on 2012-07-12 22:53:08 +0000

Muted plosives, lots of palate-action, long modulated vowels… PHWOOOOAR!Any language with a lot of Qs and Xs is alright by me.

Comment by Willie Small on 2012-07-12 23:30:22 +0000

If people are gonna rewrite these opening lines as Boz Boswell does above for Blow Him Away, then I’ll contributed this for The Cyber Manifesto: “A spectre is haunting the blogosphere — the spectre of onanism.”

Comment by Mark Massive on 2012-07-13 14:32:13 +0000

“A man called Small, who changed his name to Huge, came online intending to find a cybersex partner.”

Comment by Marilyn Chambers on 2012-07-13 15:36:47 +0000

“I probably never would have become America’s leading pork sword swallower if Linda Lovelace hadn’t happened to choke that night on Dave Zack’s clam-supreme surprise – which surprises all of those who eat it when they discover they’ve caught botulism: after consuming this dish I went around for several days thinking I was a train and going ‘toot toot – but unlike Linda Lovelace that didn’t stop me playing a leading role in several porn features.”

Comment by Faye Wilson on 2012-07-13 16:34:13 +0000

“When I was nine years old I burned my bra – it was no loss because I had yet to develop any boobsl.”

Comment by Neil Strauss on 2012-07-13 16:57:10 +0000

The best opening line is the one that gets you the boy or girl. I often go up to women and say: “If your hair was a different colour you’d be really beautiful!” Another standby I use on women with bleached hair hanging out with an alpha male is to go up to them and spit: “If you had a more intelligent companion then people wouldn’t think you’re a dumb blonde because despite him (jerk thumb at alpha male) I can see you’re quite intelligent.” For women with non-blonde hair I often use: “They say opposites attract but hanging out with that dipshit (jerk thumb at alpha male) is really taking this to extremes.”

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-07-13 17:23:08 +0000

‘Do not hang your dildo at the foot of your bed. Such instruments belong under the bolster’ – Pierre Louys.

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2012-07-13 17:35:47 +0000

Some cracker sin there, from some books I’ve read and others I haven’t, but all of which pummel the crap out of the usual Dickens yawns.
I intend to open my next 5 novels with the same santence. I just need to cook up a doozer… or one so lousy that it will become funnier and more frustrating each time…

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-07-13 22:51:13 +0000

Yes if only I’d had the foresight to start all my books with the same sentence but it just isn’t the sort of thing you think of when you start out writing at length in your twenties…. you’re still too young and foolish…
@ The Man In The Iron Mask – That’s a great opener from Pierre Louys. It also might work surprisingly well as an opening shocker in a Premature Ejaculation Solution Guide…

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-07-14 00:04:34 +0000

It should have been Louys’s opener but is in fact the third from THE YOUNG GIRL’S HANDBOOK OF GOOD MANNERS.

Comment by Tomaž Hostnik on 2012-07-14 13:00:11 +0000

My unpublished novel Everyman Awake – which describes the masses finding enlightenment and taking over the functions of the corrupt bankers and politicians – begins with the line: “I love the smell of stale farts in the morning.” This is without doubt the greatest opening line ever written and the book is clearly the best novel of all time.

Comment by MIster Trippy on 2012-07-14 18:14:38 +0000

“As Stewart Home gave my knob a long hard suck a flash of enlightenment struck – we were two split personalities and all those stretch classes I’d been taking had really paid off because I was now able to fellate myself…” Opening line of your not yet published autobiography Prick!

Comment by Michael Roth on 2012-07-17 05:58:01 +0000

I don’t have a first line for my novel yet as I’ve decided to start with the last line. I only have one word so far – “Pugilist” – as I now have writer’s block.
Otherwise, a fave first line -” Terry Blake didn’t want to get involved in the conversations going on around him.” Defiant Pose

Comment by Michael Roth on 2012-07-17 06:00:47 +0000

@ Neil Strauss – those lines were pure gold. I’ll finally be able to pull some posh birds with lines like those.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-07-17 14:49:33 +0000

Mike maybe you could get over your writer’s block by using a Neil Strauss chat up line as your opener! And “pugilist” is great – just find another eighty thousand words or so that hang really well with it and you’ll have sure-fire hit!

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