Monday, August 27, 2012

Write and Wrong

As it does every year at this time, the English Department of San Jose State University has awarded its Bulwer-Lytton prize for the most wretched opening sentence for a work of fiction.  This year the grand prize winner for bad writing is Cathy Bryant of Manchester, England, whose excruciatingly awful entry reads:

            As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his   
     eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash 
     mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat 
     the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to            
     25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether 
     the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his 
     soul needed regrouting.

There are various categories in which awards are made, one of them being the worst (or best) puns in an opening sentence.  Two dishonorable mentions are especially ghastly and worthy of our attention: the first by Peter Bjorkman of Rocklin, California, and the second by Terry L. Johnson of Tularosa, New Mexico:

            The two power-hungry, 20-something biographers met
     with me incognito and settled on penning my memoirs, one
     on a percentage of future sales and one on upfront 
     remuneration; so there is one yuppie I pay, one yuppie
     I owe, ghost writers in disguise.           


            He got down from his horse, which seemed strange to 
     him as he had always believed that you got down from a 
     duck or a goose.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, the contest is named in honor of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the nineteenth-century British author, whose novel Paul Clifford opened with this purplish over-the-top sentence:

            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.
Bulwer-Lytton, incidentally, coined the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword.” His own pen was more on the order of a blunt instrument.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou, besotted with cheap Chardonnay and besmirched with chile con queso, could not bestir himself to come up with a new verse for this year’s contest. No matter:  some of you probably have not yet memorized the lines the Bard grudgingly penned last year, so they are reprinted herewith in their entirety:

            I’ll bet my writing’s more egregious,
            Mawkish, crude, and sacrilegious
            Than anything that has been written
            Since the days of Bulwer-Lytton;
            Worse than any Harlequin romance
            By Barbara Cartland, Judith Krantz,
            Jackie Collins, Danielle Steel--
            Compared to them, I’ve no appeal.           
            I’m worse than Mary Higgins Clark
            Or any literary matriarch
            Like Stephenie Meyer and Anne Rice.
            With all their vicious vampire vice.
            Mickey Spillane and Louis L’Amour?
            I’m worse by far, and that’s for sure!
            Why, I am even lower down
            Than Sidney Sheldon and Dan Brown.
            Nora Roberts? I’d almost forgotten her—
            Not to worry, I’m much, much rottener.
            So if all my prose and all my verse
            Are really bad and couldn’t be worse,
            And like those I’ve named, I’m booed and hissed—
            Why ain’t I on the best-seller list?

No comments:

Post a Comment