The Worst Opening Lines in Books

The Edward Bulwar Lytton prize is awarded every year to the author of the worst possible opening line of a book. This has been so successful that Penguin now publishes five books of the entries.

Some recent winners:

  • “As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the sound chamber he would never hear the end of it.”
  • “Just beyond the Narrows the river widens.”
  • “With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.”
  • “Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the east wall: “Andre creep… Andre creep… Andre creep.”
  • “Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back-alley sex-change surgeon — to become the woman he loved.”
  • “Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.”
  • “Like an overripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.”
  • “Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn’t know the meaning of the word “fear,” a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death– in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies.
  • AND THE BEST OF ALL:

  • “The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the toad’s deception, screaming madly, “You lied!”

Honorable Mentions:

  • “The horizon coughed up the morning sun much as if Atlas had lowered the world from his mighty shoulders and given it the Heimlich maneuver.”
  • “This is almost worth the high blood pressure!” he thought as yet another mosquito exploded.”
  • “Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back-alley sex-change surgeon–to become the woman he loved.”
  • “Thadump, thadump, thadump, the incessant pounding of Marge’s breast against his forehead was aggravating, but Lars wasn’t about to complain, for this was the closest he’d ever been to a real woman.”
  • “Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eeking out a living at a local pet store.”
  • “It was Sammy Slug’s first day of school, and was he ever excited!–because he’d meet lots of other little worms, but he had to watch out for salt crossing the street on his way to school, his mother said, because if the patrol slug waved him and his glob of little friends across the busy, dangerous street that had been salted because of the snow, before Sammy knew it his little body would be sucked dry, and his poor mama would never see Sammy drag his slime across her doorstep again.”
  • “As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the sound chamber he would never hear the end of it.”