August 2012 | Nate Pedersen

The 2012 Bulwer-Lytton Winners

bulwerlytton.jpgIt was a dark and stormy night.

That famous sentence originated with the Victorian author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the undisputed King of Purple Prose.  "It was a dark and stormy night" opened his otherwise completely forgotten novel Paul Clifford.  In Bulwer-Lytton's honor, the San Jose State University English Department hosts an annual contest for writers to submit their absolute worst opening lines.

This year's winners were just announced:

In first place, Cathy Bryant of Manchester England with this stunner, "As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting."

The Bulwer-Lytton offers awards in a variety of genres as well, such as Romance, Fantasy, and Crime.  But my favorite category is Purple Prose, which seems the closest in spirit to Bulwer-Lytton's famously wordy writing.  This year's winner is a gem, hitting all the worst possible notes:

"William, his senses roused by a warm fetid breeze, hoped it was an early spring's equinoxal thaw causing rivers to swell like the blood-engorged gumlines of gingivitis, loosening winter's plaque, exposing decay, and allowing the seasonal pot-pouris of Mother Nature's morning breath to permeate the surrounding ether, but then he awoke to the unrelenting waves of his wife's halitosis."  (Guy Foisy, Orleans, Ontario).

Check out the website for the contest to read more winning entries.