Have you ever heard of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest? It was founded in 1982 by the English Department of San Jose State University, partially in honor of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (the novelist who composed the mother of all bad opening sentences) and partially because the creator, one Professor Scott Rice, thought it would be a relief to judge a writing contest with short entries (each entry is limited to one sentence in length). This year’s winner, submitted by Mr. Garrison Spick of Washington, D.C., was announced on August 14, 2008:
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.”
Now if that’s not classic literature, I don’t know what is.
If you’d care to learn more, here’s an NPR interview with Professor Rice as he discusses the 2007 contest (for your listening pleasure), and here we have a list of the past winners. Read it and I’m sure you’ll feel inspired – or perhaps vaguely ill!
So now I challenge you, gentle readers, to create your own horrible first line. But since this is the library blog, after all, how about making it library-related? Here’s my entry:
The inner recesses of her mind were dark, musty, and slightly damp…as if someone had dropped an opened and three-quarters full bottle of flat Mountain Dew (not diet, mind you) into an overstuffed book drop full of neglected literary criticism and left it to percolate in the sultry August afternoon heat, attracting both sweat-drenched library clerks and irritated wasps alike.
Ha! Beat that, people! I look forward to reading your attempts.