Category Archives: First Lines

Like Death


Daylight poured into the enormous studio through an open bay in the ceiling: an oblong of brilliant light–an immense perforation in the remote azure infinity–ceaselessly crisscrossed by sudden flights of birds.

-Guy De Maupassant, Like Death (New York Review Books Classics)

Best Worst American


Lately my spinster aunt has been setting my personal possessions on fire. I found a cup of ballpoint pens smoldering, a blob of ink and plastic by the TV. She has taken a lighter to my shelf of GI Joes–their hands, feet, and arms are badly scarred. They look like casualties from an actual war. We have been living together and the strain is beginning to show.

-Juan Martinez, “Road Block,” in Best Worst American: Stories

A Voice in the Night


He woke up at exactly six-thirty a.m., rested, fresh, and perfectly lucid.

He got up, went and opened the shutters, and looked outside.

Calm sea, flat as a table, and a clear sky, blue with a few small white clouds, that looked as if it had been painted by a Sunday painter and put there as decoration. A decidedly anonymous day, but he liked it precisely because of its lack of character.

-Andrea Camilleri, A Voice in the Night: An Inspector Montalbano Mystery

Motional Blur


When I think about it now, it’s like an old grainy black and white movie with a scratchy sound playing in my head. Sometimes, the memory makes me sad, other times, happy.

My name is Luke Andersen, and I was just about to turn thirty-nine when I got the call.

-Robert Eringer, Motional Blur: A Novel

Shirley Jackson


Shirley Jackson often said that the idea for “The Lottery,” the short story that shocked much of America when it appeared in The New Yorker on June 26, 1948, came to her while out doing errands one sunny June morning.

-Ruth Franklin, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life



How the hell “El Chapo” Guzman chose my restaurant to come into, I’ll never know. It was just like the stunt he’s done in a few other cities–Nuevo Leon and Culiasan. Guzman–”Shorty”–it was him, with all his narco clothing.

-Josh Barkan, “The Chef and El Chapo,” in Mexico: Stories



This is the story of a ruthless killer, a scofflaw, a keeper of brothels and bordellos, a tax cheat and perpetrator of frauds, a convicted felon, and a mindless, blubbering invalid. This is also the story of a loving son, husband, and father who described himself as a businessman whose job was to serve the people what they wanted. Al Capone was all of these

-Deirdre Bair, Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend

Children of the New World


Rumor was you could still find enlightenment in Nepal, and for cheap. There were back rooms down the spiderwebbed streets of Kathmandu where they wired you in, kicked on the generator, and sent data flowing through your brain for fifteen thousands rupees a session. It was true, Jeff from the co-op had assured Abe, though passport control could be a bitch when you returned to the States.

-Alexander Weinstein, “Moksha,” in Children of the New World: Stories

A Really Good Day


This morning I took LSD.

The table I’m sitting at right now is not breathing. My keyboard is not exploding in psychedelic fireworks, lightning bolts shooting from the letters “R” and “P.” I am not giddy and frantic, or zoned out with bliss. I feel no transcendent sense of oneness with the universe or with the divine. On the contrary, I feel normal.

-Ayelet Waldman, A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life

The Perpetual Now


One day a couple of years ago, a woman about my own age approached me on the street in Princeton, New Jersey, where I live. “I’m Aline Johnson,” she said. “I’m not sure whether you remember me. Have you heard what happened to my sister?”

-Michael D. Lemonick, The Perpetual Now: A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and Love