11 Appealing Openings

1. Having placed into my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes’ chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression. I reflected on the subject of my spare-time literary activities. One beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with. A good book may have three openings entirely dissimilar and inter-related only in the prescience of the author, or for that matter one hundred times as many endings.
Flann O’ Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds

2. Since he had returned from Korea he and his wife lived in mutual disregard, which turned three times a month into animal passion then diminished on the sharp incline to hatred, at last collecting in time into silent equal fatigue.
Barry Hannah ‘Get Some Young’, in High Lonesome

3. It was about eleven o’ clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

4. We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?"
Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. "What the hell are you yelling about?" he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses. "Never mind," I said. "It’s your turn to drive." I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Red Shark towards the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

5. It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.
‘Very good, Ali,’ I quavered in Spanish through the closed door of the master bedroom. ‘Take him to the bar. Give him a drink.’
‘Hay dos. Su capellán también.’
‘Very good, Ali. Give his chaplain a drink also.’
I retired twelve years ago from the profession of novelist. Nevertheless you will be constrained to consider, if you know my work at all and take the trouble to reread that first sentence, that I have lost none of my old cunning in the contrivance of what is known as an arresting opening. But there is really nothing of contrivance about it. Actuality sometimes plays into the hands of art.
Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers

6. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant breast.
Franz Kafka, ‘The Metamorphosis’, in The Complete Short Stories

7. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probable want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
J.D. Salinger, The Testament of Loony Munter

8. Call me Fishmeal.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

9. Nodding means yes so you’re going to do it. Me and you and her and him are going to butterfuck like branded animals. Get the Canava.
Samuel Butler, Erewhon

10. The inside of her throat burned from the retched stomach acid and two strings of hot vomit hung from her nose. Something had happened. What? Her cheek hurt. A coughing fit brought up some more thick phlegm. What was it?
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

William Shakespeare, My Book Has No First Line

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