Fame, notoriety, and celeb status will do that. Now being published and all, I fear being mobbed down at the outlet mall. It happened to J.K. Rowling, it could happen to me. To calm my nerves and pass the time, I decided to try my hand – or dare I say, my famous quill — at a new literary contest.
While I await this year’s list of invitees to the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Gala for American humor, I’m preparing one, two, or what the hell, maybe several entries into the Bulwer-Lytton Literary Contest.
Begun in 1982 in the English Department at San Jose State University, the Bulwer-Lytton Literary Contest seeks to find the worst opening line imaginable for a novel.
In the early 1800s, Lord Lytton was a British politician and Secretary of State for the Colonies (the United States was a notable failure). He supported his lavish lifestyle by writing novels, short stories, and a few plays. He was quite successful and most of his works are not half bad. Unfortunately for him, but a plus for us is his most famous opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night.” This opening line comes from his 1830 book, ‘Paul Clifford.’ This is a story about a criminal by night yet a respectable gentleman by day. This is the first known description of a democrat.
Anyway, the literary contest is held every year and I’m sure that it’s scrupulously judged. Judged no doubt by starving English Lit grad students who remain a disappointment to their parents. If you check out the website, you can find all the entry details. I will be sending my submissions in on the back of a twenty-dollar bill. Shortly I’ll be setting up a “go fund me,” page.
If any of you would like to fund a grad student of your own… oh sorry, bad joke.
Here is the contest’s website: https://www.bulwer-lytton.com
A sampling of previous Bulwer-Lytton Literary Contest Winners
A lecherous sunrise flaunted itself over a flatulent sea, ripping the obsidian bodice of night asunder with its rapacious fingers of gold, thus exposing her dusky bosom to the dawn’s ogling stare.
Stu Duval, Auckland, New Zealand
Despite an exhaustive search, rescuers were unable to locate young Christopher Robin in the Hundred Acre Wood before hypothermia took him, and the animals he once called friends descended upon his corpse like a silly old bear upon a pot of honey.
Paul Kollas, Orlando, FL
Little Timmy suffered from Claustrophobia: the fear of being trapped in a closet with Santa Claus.
Donald J. Hicks, Jr., Manchester, NJ
Runner up: Corinne considered the colors (palest green, gray and lavender) and texture (downy as the finest velvet) and wondered, “How long have these cold cuts been in my refrigerator?” Linda Boatright, Omaha, NE
Their love began as a tailor, quickly measuring the nooks and crannies of their personalities, but it soon became the seamstress of subterfuge, each of them aware of the others lingual haberdashery: Mindy trying to create a perfectly suited garment to display in public and Stan only concerned with the inseam.
D. M. Dunn, Bloomington, IN
Winner: Children’s Literature
Jack planted the magic beans and in one night a giant beanstalk grew all the way from the earth up to the clouds–which sounds like a lie, but it can be done with genetic engineering, and although a few people are against eating gene-engineered foods like those beans it’s a high-paying career to think about for when you grow up.
Frances Grimble, San Francisco, CA
When Cinderella saw that the Prince had sent the Duke to find the woman of his dreams, like some rich schoolboy who pays the smartest kid in the class to do his homework, or worse, like someone who has been on welfare so long that he has trouble doing any kind of work, she suddenly realized the spoiled nature of the King’s son and stealthily slid the slipper back into her pocket.
Milton Combs, Kingston, WA
As he entered the room within which so many a wild night of their sweltering love affair had been spent, the White Rabbit regarded her with benevolent eyes, her posture such that he suspected something was wrong, but before he could speak Alice unburied her face from her trembling hands and between her intense sobs he made out the words, “I’m late . . . I’m late.”
Cory Gano, Camas, WA
Next week I’ll share a few of my entries. Of course, the ones I actually submit will be much better, I mean worse.