"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

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.
The opening of a best selling novel  written in 1830 by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a philandering British politician, has been voted one of the top 100 opening lines of all times, but it is more usual to associate the sentence with OTT literature: bad, bad writing.
The English Department of San Jose State University in California have been running the Bulwer-Lytton for 29 years. The task is  to compose an opening to the worst of all possible novels. The prize – according to the official rules - is  a pittance or $250
The 2011 winner managed to beat off the competition with just 26 words. Here it is in all it's succinct glory.
Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell on to a growing pile of forgotten memories.
The combination of a grisly visual image with a vague abstract concept makes it a winner, especially as it ends with an unsatisfying oxymoron. 
Edward married a famous Irish beauty but couldn't be faithful to her. When he stood as a MP she proclaimed his infidelity during the election and later wrote about it. Revenge has no fury etc etc but he had her committed to a mental asylum as punishment. She only got out because of a public outcry. Even so, it doesn't seem to have harmed his political career...
As a writer he came up with two other
familiar phrases: the great unwashed and the pen is mightier than the sword...


MorningAJ said...

I'm fond of an occasional oxymoron... :)

BRIDGET said...

But they have to be good...I'm going away to think of some.