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Orwell’s opening line creates a slight but immediate discordance that sets you up for an unsettling experience.
“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.” — Anne Tyler, It will not surprise you to learn that the protagonist sets about retracing her steps and striving to correct the error, but after reading this subtle but striking first line, can you resist finding out how she does it?
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” — Charles Dickens, is a stern study of the insanity of mob rule, and this floridly eloquent prologue sets the stage like the presenter of a Shakespearean prologue: “Epic Ahead.” “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” — Raphael Sabatini, ) lets you know right away that you are about to meet someone larger than life.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” — Jane Austen, — but she certainly refined the application of the quality. It’s a bon mot — understated, yet with teeth behind that prim smile.
“The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.” — G. Chesterton, Astute observations accompanied by a implied sigh of disgust are tricky to master, but Chesterton, one of the most multifaceted men of letters, lights the way for you with this sample of the form.
“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” — William Gibson, Oh, by the way, just in case you missed the forecast?
More likely, you’ll be impressed by — and want to immerse yourself in more of — his insolence.
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” — L. Hartley, This offbeat observation from Hartley’s novel of painful reminiscence is a blindsidingly original statement that one will feel compelled to read about just how the writer acquired this wisdom.
“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” — C. Lewis, The author of the Chronicles of Narnia no sooner introduces by name a new character in the latest installment than, in just five more words, he succeeds in telling you everything you need to know about him. The stage is set for an unhappy beginning, middle, and ending.
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — George Orwell, Ho-hum — huh?