Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bad Author! Bad Author!

“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.”

The above deathless prose (not) was the first sentence of the 1830 novel Paul Clifford by Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, not to be confused with Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton, Governor-General of India, or Edward Bulwer, British Army officer.

Bulwer-Lytton (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873) was an English politician, poet, playwright, and prolific novelist. Immensely popular with the reading public of his day, he wrote a stream of bestselling novels which earned him a considerable fortune. He happens to have coined the phrases “the great unwashed,” “pursuit of the almighty dollar,” “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and the famous opening line “It was a dark and stormy night.” These are not necessarily good things.

Since 1983, the English Department of San Jose State University in California has sponsored an annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the worst of all possible opening sentences for the worst of all possible novels.

In case you have lain awake nights wondering what sort of sentences could possibly have won the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest in years past, here are the grand-prize-winning sentences for every year from 1983 through 2010.

Hold on; we aren’t through yet.

In case you have also lain awake nights wondering whether you have the wherewithal, the moxie, and the great reserve of long-hidden talent (or lack thereof) necessary to become a winner in future contests, here are all of the winning entries, runners-up, and dishonorable mentions from every category in the 2011 contest. They were announced a couple of days ago.

I figure after wading through all of those, you will have a higher tolerance for my own writing here at rhymeswithplagueville.

And if you actually took the time to read every last word in the links and actually liked what you read, let me just say that not only are you between Scylla and Charybdis, between the Devil and the deep blue sea, between a rock and a hard place, but you also will be -- now and forevermore, or at least until next year’s winners are announced -- between Cheryl’s mind and Urgh the howler monkey’s bananas.

8 comments:

Yorkshire Pudding said...

On a blustery day in late fall, approximately twenty seven minutes after I had parked my green 1952 Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe 4-Door Sedan outside the abandoned ochre-coloured drugstore in downtown Rhymeswithplaguesville, I felt a desperate urge to visit a rest room, realising that I should probably not have chowed up all the chicken pieces from the KFC family bucket the night before.
(Extract from my new novel - "To Canton With Love")

rhymeswithplague said...

Y.P., bravo! And when you submit this to the 2012 BLFC, please remember that there is only one plague in Rhymeswithplagueville.

Shooting Parrots said...

He bit his nails furiously, drumming them nervously on the battered and worn keyboard of his life. Dare he? The words of his old spy-master flitted fleetingly acros his furrowed brow: "He who dares wins. Sieze the day and carp not about the diem." Bracing himself, Bond shrugged phlegmatically as his unwavering, nerveless index finger clicked the link: "So Mr Plague, we meet again!"

[From the new 007 novel, Quantities of Solids]

rhymeswithplague said...

S.P., bravo and double huzzahs! It is always good not to carp about the diem, especially when one has a nerveless index finger. As you probably have guessed, my keyboard of life is battered and worn more than most. You have me laughing out loud! And may I just add that my shrugging is always done phlegmatically.

Pat - Arkansas said...

There is no way I could best YP or Shooting Parrots, so I'll just say "thanks for the laughs." I read all the entries on the links you provided; my favorite was the 2011 Crime Winner.

Putz said...

i have trouble with phlem in my sinuses also

rhymeswithplague said...

Putz, phlegmatic has nothing to do with phlegm, at least not in the way you think.

Snowbrush said...

Well, Bulwer-Lytton's fate just goes to show that we can all hope for some form of literary remembrance.