Okay, a little game. Can you name the novel and its author by the following first sentences? I attempted to grab a versatile representation from my dusty bookselves in order to represent a variety of authors, but I realize my reading habits tend to follow narrow paths, for which I apologize. I threw in a few freebees. By the way, if you have a beef with grammatical errors (for instance, if you feel a particular sentence contains too many or too few commas), take it up with the author responsible for said errors, not me.
1. Marley was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that.
2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
3. Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.
4. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
5. The great fish moved silently through the water, propelled by short sweeps of its cresent tail.
6. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
7. The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended.
8. Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy.
9. In the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh in Westphalia, there once lived a youth endowed by nature with the gentlest of characters.
10. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
11. It was a dark and stormy night. (Rather vague for an introductory sentence, I know. Hint: it’s by a great female contemporary author who passed away less than a month ago.)
12. Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.
13. Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. (Yes, I realize this is two sentences. The first one is not much to go by.)
14. In the hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. (No one is allowed to guess The Lord of the Rings.)
15. The most victorious and triumphant King of England, Henry the Eighth of that name, in all royal virtues a prince most peerless, had recently some differences with Charles, the most serene Prince of Castile, and sent me into Flanders to negotiate and compose matters between them.
16. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
17. The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.”
18. Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picure in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. (Again, two sentences, but the mention of the boa constrictor is an evocative inclusion for anyone who has read this gem.)
19. The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon.
20. All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.