Monday, September 07, 2009

Bulwer-Lytton - the toilet roll that goes bumpity bumpity

NPR was talking about first lines of novels which reminded me to check if the 2009 Bulwer-Lytton results were out - they are. Bulwer-Lytton is that contest that "challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels." In all fairness NPR was talking seriously, but I don't know if after Bulwer-Lytton if it's even possible to have a serious conversation about first lines of novels without descending into silliness.

Honestly I think I like the runner up better, but neither compares to the ones from year's past where are listed here:

Which contains my all time favorite from 2002. Whenever I think of Bulwer-Lytton I think of toilet rolls going bumpity bumpity.

On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet-paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained.

--Rephah Berg, Oakland CA (2002 Winner)

And in case you haven't seen the inspiration for all this fun:

"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."

--Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

Who had a hyphenated name long before it was fashionable. Such a trend setter in so many ways.

I keep thinking I should try to think of some entries, but the idea of trying to keep to one sentence is more than a little daunting though I dearly love all the weird imagery and bad metaphoric language and I'm realizing that I haven't ended this sentence yet - hmmmmm.


Elf said...

Well, exactly, you just keep adding "and," "but," "however," "which then," parentheses, and so on. Plus completely inappropriate metaphors seem popular (witness the toilet paper roll--).

Jan said...

I love Bulwer-Lytton! I didn't know the results were out - thank you my friend!

BLproject said...

I've started a blog devoted to writing Bulwer-Lytton sentences. I'm going to write first sentences for a year and work with blog followers on crafting the best worst first sentences.