Thursday, July 28, 2005

Speaking of bad writing...

...and we were, just yesterday...

Here's the winning entry in this year's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, sponsored annually by the English department of San Jose State University. The idea, for the two or three of you who may be unfamiliar with this exercise, is to create the absolute worst possible opening sentence for an imaginary novel. The contest is named in honor of the legendary Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who once began a novel with this now infamous passage:
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
Your 2005 champion Bulwer-Lytton imitator is Dan McKay of Fargo, North Dakota, who penned this florid gem:
As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual.
Nice to see several local folks among the runners-up, including Mark Hawthorne of my own fair city of Rohnert Park, whose entry came in second in the Historical Fiction category:
A column of five hundred Roman foot soldiers - a column held together by the plaster of courage -- advanced on a teeming sea of rebellious slaves -- slaves who had, ironically, built most of Rome's columns, although they actually used lime and not plaster to cement the structures, and though it is perhaps more historically precise to describe the soldiers' column as bound by the lime of courage, that doesn't really have the same adventurous ring to it.
One of these years, I'm going to remember ahead of time to submit an entry, and I'm going to win this crazy contest. I can write badly with the best of them.

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