A Celebration of
Great Opening Lines
in World Literature

Launched: January 1, 2022

This website is dedicated to the memory of John O. Huston (1945-2022)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A “beta” or “soft” launch is the preliminary unveiling of a website before it is officially launched. It is almost always done when a project is close to completion, but “Not Quite Ready for Prime Time.” It provides a valuable window in time to work out the kinks and, even more important, to identify and correct errors.

In the case of this site, a single person has been responsible for all of the content: me. As a result, I’m certain this version contains many typographical errors, clumsy or confusing constructions, and errors of fact. If you spot any, I would be grateful if you would point them out. My goal is to make this site as error-free as possible before the official launch date: Jan. 1. 2022. To report any problems, contact me directly.

The short answer is, to borrow a phrase from an old Beatles’s song, “With a little help from my friends.” My goal from the very beginning has been to produce a world-class website and to make it completely ad-free. This will be possible only with sufficient financial support from visitors like you. Information on how to become a site Sponsor is provided below.

Absolutely not! This current project is so huge I expect to spend the rest of my life—literally, for a man of my age—working on it. I think it’s a great idea, though, and would support anyone taking up the challenge.

The most likely reason is that I have not yet gotten to it. Remember, I’m in the early stages of this project, and I’m the only person adding entries. If you’d like to nominate any candidates for future inclusion, drop me a note at: [email protected]

The short answer is “Plenty,” and far more that you’re probably expecting right now. Let me explain.

When I first started collecting quotations more than a half century ago, I discovered that the stories behind the quotations were as interesting—and sometimes even more interesting—than the quotations themselves. That’s when I systematically began searching for quotation backstories, and sharing them with people. You will find thousands of examples on “Dr. Mardy’s Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations,”

The same thing is true with Great Opening Lines. A perfect example is the backstory behind the magnificent opening line of Jacqueline Woodson’s children’s book The Day You Begin (2018):

There will be times when you walk into a room

and no one there is quite like you.

On its own, this is a wonderful message to send to young children—and it is a terrific way to begin a children’s book. In Woodson’s case, it was also a way to preserve a treasured memory from her own childhood.

Growing up, Woodson loved hearing stories about her ancestors, who her family had traced back to Thomas Woodson, believed to be the first son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Woodson’s great-great-grandfather, William Woodson, was born in 1832 to the wife of a free black man from Ohio, and went on to fight and die while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. After his death, his only son—Woodson’s great-grandfather—was sent to Nelsonville, Ohio to live with an aunt, who enrolled him in a local all-white school. From her earliest days, Woodson heard her mother describe his experiences as the only black child in the school. The story so affected Woodson that she ultimately transformed it into a poem, “It’ll be Scary Sometimes.” A portion of the poem goes this way (italics in original):

You’ll face this in your life someday,

My mother will tell us

Over and over again.

A moment when you walk into a room and

No one there is like you.

While writing the poem, first published in the 1992 book Maizon at Blue Hill, Woodson believed the story about her grandfather would one day figure in yet another work. She couldn’t have found a better place than in the opening line of The Day You Begin.