For the new year of… 03/04 I think it was, I celebrated with a bunch of lovely friends at a house belonging to one of their relatives in Cornwall. It was generally a very good time, there was darts, sandcastles, dancing and midnight swimming in the teeth-chattering sea. I will always remember it though for when we played that Shag/Marry/Kill game (where you nominate 3 people and the players have to decide which of them they would do each of the above to). So we had got beyond just nominating people and were doing various, uh, concepts I guess. And someone said “opening lines.” I at this point made a) a disastrous logical leap and b) the unwise decision to try to impress everyone with my knowledge. So I rattled out as quick as I could, “Last night I dreamt of Manderley; It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; and, It is an ancient Mariner and he stoppeth one of three.”* NATURALLY, I had assumed they meant opening lines of great works of literature, right, because one could have a lot of fun debating which opening line you would shag, etc. Of course, by “opening lines” they had actually meant chat-up lines, and the quizzical giggling around the room served to remind me once again of my glaring socio-sexual incompetence, which was of course something that happened a lot in those days (advice for all the easily embarrassed 21 year olds reading this: it’s not so bad once you’re married).

Which is by way of bringing us to this neat gallery over on the Guardian/Observer website, 10 great opening lines from literature illustrated with their authors. I challenge someone unattached to go and actually use one of these as a chat-up line this weekend.

The 10 best first lines in fiction | Books | The Observer.

*Those may not have been the specific opening lines I came out with, but you get the picture.