Friday, July 29, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: on Purple Prose, Mangy Mutts, Smokey Sunsets and R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Every year I think about entering a sentence in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, but it always happens after I've seen the announcement of that year's winner.   This particular contest is like a "Worst Fiction in the World" contest, where contestants have to come up with an opening sentence for an imaginary novel that is worse than, or at least comparable to, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's first sentence of his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford (and the first line of many of Snoopy's unfinished novels).

 (Here's the entire sentence. You be the judge):

"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."

I love the idea of coming up with a sentence so godawful bad it could actually win an award. I think I could do that.  Write badly, I mean. A sentence that would drop them to their knees, where, when the dust settled, they would find an entirely new perspective; or better yet, fly them to the moon, where green cheese is a mere but pleasant myth, but the ethereal man who smiles down on Mother Earth is as real as their hearts will allow, thus opening a path to thinking kind thoughts of me.

Anyway.  The 2011 over-all winner was a professor from Oshkosh, WI, who sent in this sentence:

"Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories."

I personally thought this one, from the "Purple Prose" category, should have won, but click on the link above and see what you think:

"As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue."

More odd news from Wisconsin:  A highway worker found a dead animal by the side of the road that was like no other he had ever seen.  "It's completely hairless [he said], almost like leather.  It has a canine-like head and a fox- or dog-type head. The rear legs are coon-like. The tail is almost like an opossum."

Some people think it's a chupacabra, while others think it's just an animal with a severe case of mange. But it turns out there have been sightings of similar animals all over the place.  And unlike Bigfoot, there's actually a carcass. (Either the genus Bigfoot never dies or they disintegrate and turn into dust, giving them an entirely new perspective, leaving nothing to us except our own imaginings.)

And speaking of oddities, how about Arizona and those dust storms?  Where the heck did they come from?  And why are they all of a sudden called "haboobs"?  Such a ruckus in that touchy state over an Arabic word for "Holy shit!  Look at that thing!"  Articleman wrote about it on dagblog last week.  (He lives in Arizona but he's okay.  He's not one of them.  Lordy, if  the dust ever settles in that nutty state, everyone could breathe easy again.) 

A Flash mob comes to a DC Walmart:  I love flash mob videos, but this is a new one on me.  All they want is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Just as much fun for the rest of us but it doesn't look like the Walmart manager is enjoying himself.  Still, he let it happen.  Good for him.    (Thanks to GottaLaff at Political Carnival for this.) 

A moment sublime:  There was a forest fire to the west of us last week.  Not close enough to cause any concern for us, but it produced a spectacular sunset.  It went on and on.  I ran out of purple prose long before it finally subsided.

Cartoon of the Week:

Bob Englehart - Hartford Courant



  1. I love the Bulwer-Lytton contest, too, and do the exact same thing as you every year: "I have GOT to enter that next year!" And then I forget about it until the next year's winners are announced. ::sigh::

    I also laughed, because my favorite was also the Purple Prose winner! It reminded me of my all-time favorite entry, one in romance, in which the heroine talked about the eyes of her lover being a "Tidy Bowl blue." Now that's some fine (bad) writin', right there! 

  2. Hi Beth, I'll remind you next year if you'll remember to remind me!

    Ha ha.  I've read parts of some pretty bad romance novels whose authors unwittingly write sentences that could win prizes in this contest, hands down.  But they're making money off of them, so who am I to make fun?  Ha.

  3. This one is in my Lyceum of Renown (aka hall of fame):

    "The notes blatted skyward as the sun
    rose over the Canada geese, feathered rumps mooning the day, webbed
    appendages frantically peddling unseen bicycles in their search for
    sustenance, driven by Nature's maxim, "Ya wanna eat, ya gotta
    work," and at last I knew Pittsburgh."

    --Sheila B. Richter, Minneapolis,
    Minnesota (1987 Winner)

  4. Oh, Maggie, Maggie... I laughed, I cried, I swooned.  If ever there is a Lifetime Achievement Award for Splendiferously Bad First Sentences, I nominate that one.  Priceless!

  5. Yup, it's a classic.

    Hey, do you remember the olden days, when your average weekly alternative newspaper had such a thriving Personals ad section?  Oh, I had such fun with those.  Here's one that I actually clipped, then I lost it.  But I remember it, and it was one of my favorites.  I mean that in a truly appreciative way; it wasn't one of the silly ones.

    "Woman, strong silent type, finds there is one thing she cannot do on her own.  This is so hard to ask for.  Seeking a loud, obnoxious cowboy to help her shop for used car."

    To this day I regret that I didn't contact her to see how her search went.

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