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Less Famous Second Lines From Great Works of Literature


The first lines of some of humanity’s best novels are so unforgettable that they feel etched into our memories from the moment we read them. But then what happens? Uh, no one really remembers. Here are a few less famous second lines from great works of literature, maybe.

Moby Dick 

Call me Ishmael. My actual name is Derek, but this is a thing I’m trying out.

Gravity’s Rainbow 

A screaming comes across the sky. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH SHIT AHHHHHHHHHHH SHIT,” it goes.

Anna Karenina 

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. The kind of unhappy we were was the “constantly on a train” kind.

Ethan Frome

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. But I guess that’s to be expected in a rousing game of ‘telephone.’

Finnegans Wake

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. Also, I’ll say upfront: if you’re looking for the one that ends with the lady moaning “yes” a lot, that’s my other book, just wanted to make sure you knew, don’t want you to be disappointed, okay, back to the river.

Invisible Man 

I am an invisible man. The reason why I know is I put a blanket on my head so you can’t see me.

The Old Man and the Sea

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. Whenever he tried, people would clutch their fish to their chests and yell, “No! Stop! Don’t take this fish!” so he was like, “Okay.”

The Bell Jar 

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. Aside from working at my first electrocutioner job, that is.

A Tale of Two Cities 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. It was the return of the McRib, and quite frankly, I had a lot of mixed feelings about it.


Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. Name on my court summons.


The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. The sun was wearing sunglasses, which, like most things, were cute but without purpose.

One Hundred Years of Solitude 

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. But in the end, all they found was some super cold water.

The Princess Bride 

This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it. It’s called Infinite Jest.

O Pioneers!

One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to be blown away. But it was hard, given what a super awesome job at juggling I was doing.


Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and razor lay crossed. “This is soup,” he said, eating the lather with a spoon, because he thought it might get a laugh.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Ships at a distance have every wish on board. What they don’t have on board is a supply of fresh citrus, which is too bad for the men whose wish was to not get scurvy.

Fahrenheit 451

It was a pleasure to burn. It allowed him to put songs like “Collide” by Howie Day and “Yeah!” by Usher on the same CD; yes, it was 2004, and Guy Montag was nursing a big ol’ crush.

The Great Gatsby 

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Don’t die in a swimming pool,” he said … but what could he have meant?

A River Runs Through It 

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. Which I guess is the best explanation for Pastor Trout.

The Catcher in The Rye 

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. The End.


Book cover: Build Your Own Christmas Movie Romance by Riane Konc

Riane Knoc doesn’t just rewrite great works of literature in terrible, hilarious ways, she’s also the author of the new humor book, Build Your Own Christmas Movie Romance, which combines the Hallmark/Lifetime holiday romcom movie genre with the Choose Your Own Adventure book genre, with predictably amazing results. Will you meet your true love when you’re begrudgingly visiting your childhood home for Christmas, or when you’re alone for the holidays after breaking off an engagement? And will you fall for a handsome exec who secretly has a heart of gold, or a kind country boy who openly has a heart of gold? There’s only one way to find out. 

Riane Konc Author Photo
Riane Konc (Guest Blogger)

Riane Konc is a humor writer whose work can be found in the New Yorker, the New York Times, McSweeney’s, Mad Magazine, and more. Her book of holiday satire, Build Your Own Christmas Movie Romance, is out now. Follow her on Twitter.