Monday, September 22, 2008

Really bad writing

"It was a dark and stormy night," found in Peanuts strips whenever Snoopy gets bit by the writing bug, is generally considered the worst opening line in literary history. It comes from "Paul Clifford" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and is commemorated yearly at the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which invites writers to submit the worst opening lines for imaginary novels. 

It isn't just bad writing per se, it's supposed to be monumentally bad, as in earnestly attempting to be literary but failing massively. Just check out the winner for the "Purple Prose" category:

The mongrel dog began to lick her cheek voraciously with his sopping wet tongue, so wide and flat and soft, a miniature pink fleshy cape soaked through and oozing with liquid salivary gratitude; after all, she had rescued him from the clutches of Bernard, the curmudgeonly one-eyed dogcatcher, whose own tongue -- she remembered vividly the tongues of all her lovers -- was coarse and lethargic, like a slug in a sandpaper trenchcoat.

Or the overall champion:

Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."

Check out the other winners here.

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