23. One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary. —Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)
Part of my 100 Best First Lines from Novels project.
First lines are powerful. It’s the author’s best chance to hook the reader. A great first line will pull you in, introduce you to the narrator, and set the tone for the entire book. Depending on what you’re reading, a great first line can be funny or meaningful or sad or somehow all of the above. Some great lines are flowery and beautiful, while others are direct and to the point.
But a great line should always pull you out of your world and straight into the world of the book. Here is my tribute to the 100 best opening lines in Western Literature that immediately draw you in.
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These are the first 33: