Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”
One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.
Kafka throws you straight into a strange situation in the first line. I’m definitely going to read on to see if this is a metaphor or if Gregor has really become a bug. (Spoiler alert: He’s a bug.)
John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row”
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses.
Besides the obvious gift Steinbeck has for singing prose, I can picture this town. I don’t know what’s going to happen in it, but with a description like that in the first line, I’m going to assume it has to be interesting.
My stab at a novelized movie’s first line:
Titanic – It hurt to breathe, the icy, salt-damp air like a thousand tiny pins pricking the air sacs in my lungs. Then again, it wasn’t the promise of a temperate night breeze that had brought me topside as the ocean liner steamed past Newfoundland.