Monday, January 25, 2016

It was a dark and snowy night

I have mentioned the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest before. (Click here for that post.) Since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored this whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. The contest was the brainchild (or Rosemary’s baby) of Professor Scott Rice, whose graduate school excavations unearthed the source of the line “It was a dark and stormy night.” Sentenced to write a seminar paper on a minor Victorian novelist, he chose the man with the funny hyphenated name, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was best known for perpetrating The Last Days of Pompeii, Eugene Aram, Rienzi, The Caxtons, The Coming Race, and – not least – Paul Clifford, whose famous opener has been plagiarized repeatedly by the cartoon beagle Snoopy. No less impressively, Lytton coined phrases that have become common parlance in our language: “the pen is mightier than the sword,” “the great unwashed,” and “the almighty dollar.”

In case you have ever wondered about the full version of that Snoopy-famed quote and have not bothered to click on the above link to the earlier post, here it is again: 
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.
As the two or three people who actually read Wicca in WhoVille know, Damien Malachy and I used that as the opening lines of the book's first chapter. I will not go into the discussions about it, except to say it was a rather schizophrenic event. [No, it wasn't! Yes, it was!]

At any rate, as noted, the contest challenges participants to submit their worst creations in the first-line department.  In looking through my own files tonight -- and it is dark and snowy outside, though no violent gusts of wind are sweeping up American Parkway, for it is in northeast Madison that my scene lies -- I ran across a line that I wrote with the thought of submitting it. There is still time, the official deadline being April 15 (Income Tax day!) though the real deadline is June 30. I do not, however, intend to subject the judges to this horror. 

You, however, dear reader, are not to be shown such mercy. Here it is in all its glory:
The train rounded the bend and hung on the edge of the rails, like a drop of snot on the end of the nose of a six-year-old kid sitting in the corner of the schoolroom after being scolded for not blowing his nose into a tissue or sneezing into his elbow the way the teacher had been trying futilely to teach the class for weeks but getting nowhere because they didn’t believe anything she told them since she insisted that the world was round when any idiot could see just by looking that it was as flat as the remains of the squirrel that the Number 3 bus had run over just outside of the parking lot on Eighth Street that morning, and then it tipped over.

1 comment:

anne marie in philly said...

you wrote a sarah palin word salad!