Monday, February 11, 2013

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

1984, Penguin edition, from later that year
Compiled by Scott Rice
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The Best (?) from the Bulwer-Lytton Contest
Original price $4.95, purchase price $2.95
Slightly worn paperback

The contest is still running after three decades, but this is the collection of the first submissions.  Contestants have to come up with the opening sentence of the worst novel imaginable.  As such, many of the sentences run on to paragraph length, which gets a bit tedious if you're reading in a sitting or two, so that you'll be grateful for some of the pithier entries.  I thought the best chapter was the simile one, "Like an Overripe Peach in a Blender."  "The Way We Live Now" references Valley Girls, the Moral Majority, and marijuana (that last one not quite so timely), and contains one sentence that would still be timely if it hadn't mentioned a typewriter:  "Staring at the starkly white sheet of paper in his typewriter, John wondered-- is it possible to write a novel, even the first sentence of a novel, in such a self-conscious and hyperreflective age?"

So what won?  Scroll down at your own risk:

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