Wednesday, March 08, 2006

size doesn't matter

A long time ago, I made a list of (mostly) classic novels, their word counts and their opening lines. This is the result (from biggest to smallest):


War and Peace, 560 000
"Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes."

Moby Dick, 213 000
"Call me Ishmael."

Crime and Punishment, 203 000
"On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge."

Odyssey, 122 000
"The man for wisdom's various arts renown'd,
Long exercised in woes, O Muse! resound;"

Robinson Crusoe, 121 000
"I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull."

Madame Bovary, 116 000
"We were in class when the head-master came in, followed by a "new fellow," not wearing the school uniform, and a school servant carrying a large desk."

About A Boy, 79 800
"Have you split up now?"

The Big Sleep, 66 800
"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. "

The Hound of the Baskervilles, 60 000
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table."

Slaughterhouse Five, 49 500
"All this happened, more or less."

Great Gatsby, 48 740
"In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since."

Heart of Darkness, 38 730
"The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest."

Old Man and the Sea, 27 100
"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish."



Now I can't remember why I did this in the first place, I'm not usually a compulsive compiler of lists, but it probably had something to do with my quest to find the best opening line ever. I have decided that it is the opening line to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

"All rights reserved under International and Pan - American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto."

Alright, here it is: "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."



1 comment:

  1. I am always surprised that people do not know the opening line to Moby Dick. Knowing that one tid bit has won me many a Trivial Pursuit games.

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