Author Topic: American academic’s horribly mangled metaphor wins 2011 bad writing prize  (Read 7943 times)

Joe Carillo

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Forum member Ed Maranan, Hall of Famer of the Palanca Awards for Literature, copied me the very interesting news item below that came out in the July 22, 2011 issue of The Guardian in the UK:

Bulwer-Lytton prize for bad writing goes to brutally mangled metaphor
American academic takes honour inspired by famously awful Victorian novel
By Alison Flood

American academic Sue Fondrie's disturbing description of thoughts like mutilated sparrows has been declared the worst sentence of the year.

Fondrie, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, beat an impressive display of terrible writing to win the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, named in honour of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1830 novel Paul Clifford and its much-quoted opening, "It was a dark and stormy night".

Entrants to the prize are duly challenged to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.

The academic's submission to the prize, "Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories", makes her its 29th winner. Fondrie's sentence is the shortest winner in the prize's history, "proving that bad writing need not be prolix, or even very wordy", said organisers.

Bulwer-Lytton's own sentence, "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", takes the opposite approach, running to 59 words.

Fondrie later wrote on Twitter that despite her sentence's subject, she is "in no way anti-alternative energy". "My life is a little brighter knowing I'm the Worst Writer of 2011," she said. "It's only fitting that someone who teaches people how to teach would be a bad-writing winner."

"My students don't seem to mind either, as I've heard from quite a few of them already," added Fondrie. "That's the best part about it: I'm reconnecting with students from years ago. As one of them wrote, 'I knew you were awful, so it's great that you're finally getting recognised.'"

This year's Bulwer-Lytton runner-up was Rodney Reed, with: "As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this ... and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words."

The historical fiction category was taken by John Doble's submission: "Napoleon's ship tossed and turned as the emperor, listening while his generals squabbled as they always did, splashed the tepid waters in his bathtub", while Ali Kawashima's entry, "As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell, and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand – who would take her away from all this – and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had", won the romance award.

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2011 Results

« Last Edit: November 10, 2023, 06:21:29 PM by Joe Carillo »


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Thanks for sharing that "horrible" writing, I needed a good laugh.

I was logging off my computer late Friday afternoon when I got blindsided by my boss, Hurricane Ike, who was making blustery demands and tossing impossible last-minute projects around the room that threatened to swamp not only my evening but quite possibly drown my entire weekend. Sitting in my chair I finally stood up to him. "Sir, I have a prior engagement at an out of town wedding but I would be happy to get right on that first thing Monday morning." Flabbergasted he just stared at me as I got up and left, having just downgraded him to Tropical Storm.

Eh, not quite bad enough...
« Last Edit: October 08, 2011, 09:02:38 AM by jfinguy »
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