The first sentence in Monte Cristo that we looked at on Friday stretched two or three lines in length. It obviously worked well for Dumas and I truthfully did like it, but it did seem rather too long. Today, I awoke thinking about the converse – short sentences.
“Go.” It’s the shortest complete sentence in the English language. I suppose if you want to require two words that you could upgrade to “I am.” Neither of these have ever been used to open any books that I can recall. The shortest sentence I’ve read (and can readily recollect) to open a book is Moby Dick’s “Call me Ishmael.”
It’s easily the most famous opening in English literature, so it’s hard to argue against Melville’s using it. Personally, I can’t see using a short sentence to open my book. Critics and fans alike would see it and think it was done for effect or imitation.