Literature’s Most Famous Opening Lines, Google Voice Style

On one of the upcoming episodes of the Bookrageous podcast, we’ll be discussing Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay, the final part of the Hunger Games trilogy. Opinions are pretty split on the book, in the general public and among our trio of podcasters. Team Bookrageous decided that, hey, we want to squeeze as many opinions as possible into the show, so why not solicit voicemails from other readers? One voicemail line later (call us, there will be prizes!) we were off and running.

Did you know that Google Voice makes transcriptions of all of your voicemails? Did you know that how Google interprets what people say is hilarious?

As a public service, here’s the famous opening lines of a bunch of novels, transcribed by Google Voice. The better-read of you might be able to figure out each book on first look, but I wouldn’t blame you if you find it incomprehensible. I’ve listed the actual books at the end of the post.

Call me, Ishmael.

For starters, I was a little worried that the fidelity was so good. Sure, the pause (which Google added, not me) completely changes the line, but the words are all still there.

Do the truth universally knowledge to the single man in possession of the good fortune must be in one, so if.

That’s more like it.

If light of my life fire my line.

“Light of my life” still has a nice ring to it, but “fire my line” isn’t quite as titillating as the original line.

Happy families are all like everyone happy family has an I had unhappy and it’s on the way.

That’s actually how I used to start my stand-up routine. “Ever notice how happy families are all like…”

It was a break full day in April and the clock for striking 13.

War is peace, freedom is slavery, and grammar are correct.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times over the age of wisdom. It was the age of forcing us. It was the epic a believe it was the epic of, and could Julie. Who’s the season of a light it was the season of darkness in the spring of hope. It was winter spare.

“Winter spare” has a much nicer ring to it than “winter of despair,” I must say. But who the hell is Julie?

I am an Invisible Man.

Perfect. One for seven.

You don’t know about me without you. Have a read a book by the name of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but it ain’t no matter.

To be fair, this isn’t much different than Huck’s grammar in the rest of the book.

The son Sean having the alternative on the nothing new.

I don’t remember there being a Sean in Murphy. Maybe he knows Julie?

This is the saddest story I’ve ever heard.

Take that, Ford Maddox Ford! Google edited a contraction into your opening line!

124 with spiteful.


Through the fence between the curling flowers spaces. I could see them head.

So close, Google Voice. SO. CLOSE. Still, a fairly strong finish.


Can’t figure out what lines I was reading? From top to bottom, these are the opening lines of Moby-Dick, Pride and Prejudice, Lolita, Anna Karenina, 1984, A Tale of Two Cities, Invisible Man, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Murphy, The Good Soldier, Beloved and The Sound and the Fury.


5 responses to “Literature’s Most Famous Opening Lines, Google Voice Style

  1. For even more Google Voice fun, you can DONATE your VM’s to Google so they can work on improving their transcription quality.

    I assume this means some actual person actually listens to your voicemails, so I make sure to donate as many of my redneck friends’ messages as possible. The thought of some poor programmer in suburban Mumbai or (even better) a whiz kid in Mountain View trying to decipher western Maryland redneck babble is just too funny to pass up.

  2. You forgot three — Lolita.

  3. Thanks, Pnin! I fixed the list above.

  4. Pingback: Literature News | Dark Sky Magazine

  5. Pingback: Daily book biz round-up: Oprah’s arrow points to Franzen again; Google mangles your literary faves; and more | Quillblog | Quill & Quire

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