As Grothe explains on the site’s home page, GreatOpeningLines.com is “the first website devoted exclusively to the celebration of great opening lines in world literature.”
It’s already the world’s largest online database of literary history’s greatest opening words, and Grothe will be adding to it steadily in the months ahead.
For quote buffs like me, this is big news.
It’s the latest addition to the works of a man who is one of the great living quotations mavens, and it’s already generated praise from some of those other experts.
One of them is the editor of the monumental New Yale Book of Quotations, Fred Shapiro, whose annual list of notable quotes of the year is reprinted by thousands of newspapers and websites each December.
Shapiro said this about Grothe’s new site:
“Mardy Grothe’s books and websites are the wonders of the quotation world. Time and time again he has produced resources that are both addictively fascinating and highly educational. GreatOpeningLines.com is another tour de force by the master. Grothe has a genius for selecting the best opening lines and enhancing them with wonderful commentary.”
The books Shapiro mentioned are what first brought Grothe to my own attention.
His books are unique, hugely entertaining collections of quotations that fit certain topics or themes. They’re available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions and include:
- Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You: Chiasmus and a World of Quotations
- Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit & Wisdom From History’s Greatest Wordsmiths
- Viva la Repartee: Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts from History’s Great Wits and Wordsmiths
- I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like: A Comprehensive Compilation of History’s Greatest Analogies, Metaphors, and Similes
- Ifferisms: An Anthology of Aphorisms That Begin with the Word “IF”
- Neverisms: A Quotation Lover’s Guide to Things You Should Never Do, Never Say, or Never Forget, and
- Metaphors Be with You: An A to Z Dictionary of History’s Greatest Metaphorical Quotations
- Deconstructing Trump: The Trump Phenomenon Through the Lens of Quotation History
Grothe also helped pioneer the realm of online quotation resources when, over ten years ago, he created one of the most significant online databases of famous words: Dr. Mardy’s Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations, called the DMDMQ, for short.
That amazing resource includes nearly 50,000 quotations, organized into more than 2,500 categories. It’s the largest, most comprehensive and most rigorously researched online database of metaphorical quotations in the world.
If you like to browse quotes, there are many days and weeks’ worth of browsing for you on the DMDMQ. It’s also a great source for research, since the quotes are organized alphabetically by key word and there’s a search tool that makes it easy to find quotes or people.
Equally important to quotation buffs like me is the fact that Grothe’s books and the DMDMQ provide specific sources for the quotes. Not just the names of the people who said the words, but citations that tell what book, article, news story or other source the quotations first appeared it. In an era when there are all too many phony quotations floating around the internet, source citations are important. They ensure that the quotes are real and allow for follow-up research.
Source citations are also provided for the quotations featured on Grothe’s GreatOpeningLines.com site. It already includes nearly 1,300 of the best opening lines from novels, non-fiction books, articles and essays and is steadily growing. Each entry includes the writer’s name and the source of the lines.
The entries are organized under 25 genres. In addition to providing the names and source citations, many entries are followed by interesting commentary about their context and meaning.
For example, here’s the entry for a famous opening line by Jane Austen, in the Sex, Love, Marriage, & Family category, with the commentary:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Described by English writer and editor Robert McCrum as “The archetypal First Line for an archetypal tale,“ these opening words have achieved legendary status, appearing near the top of almost every Top Ten list ever compiled. In How to Read Literature (2013), British scholar Terry Eagleton described this line as “One of the most renowned opening sentences in English literature” and “a small masterpiece of irony.“ Eagleton went on to add: “The irony does not exactly leap off the page. It lies in the difference between what is said—that everyone agrees that rich men need wives—and what is plainly meant, which is that this assumption is mostly to be found among unmarried women in search of a well-heeled husband.” In the novel, the narrator continued: “However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”
Naturally, GreatOpeningLines.com includes many widely-known opening lines, like that one by Austen. But what makes the website even more fun and fascinating to me is that Grothe includes many that — while not necessarily famous — are thought-provoking examples of well-crafted lines that demonstrate the art of grabbing a reader’s attention and making them want to read on.
I also like that Grothe doesn’t limit his choices to highbrow literature. He also includes examples from the realms of pop culture.
For example, in the Crime/Detective & Suspense/Thrillers category, Grothe includes several opening lines from novels written by the great crime and mystery novelist Mickey Spillane. Spillane who created, among other things, the Private Detective character Mike Hammer, was one of the grandmasters of that genre and I’m a big fan of his work. Among the opening lines by Spillane that Grothe incudes is one of my faves:
“The guy was dead as hell. He lay on the floor in his pajamas with his brains scattered all over the rug and my gun in his hand.”
– Mickey Spillane, Vengeance is Mine (1950)
Grothe notes in a comment that those words have been cited as one of the “25 of the Best Opening Lines in Crime Fiction” by Greg Levin, who is himself an award-winning crime novelist.
If you enjoy reading quotations or reading in general, Grothe’s GreatOpeningLines.com will provide many hours of browsing enjoyment. If you’re a writer, the quotations it features amount to a master class in writing what are often the most important lines in any book or story.
In a nutshell, I love Dr. Mardy Grothe’s new GreatOpeningLines.com website and highly recommend it. It’s an amazing new contribution to the literary world — endlessly fascinating, deeply thought-provoking, and, for the aspiring writer, highly inspirational.
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RECOMMENDED READING: BOOKS BY DR. MARDY GROTHE…