As I Was Saying…

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A Dark and Stormy Night

August 6, 2008

I’ll bet this is the sort of night Edward George Bulwer-Lytton imagined when, in about 1830, he wrote the infamous opening words of the otherwise forgotten novel Paul Clifford. Actually, Bulwer-Lytton’s complete opening sentence goes like this:

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.

No wonder Bulwer-Lytton has a contest named for him in which entrants compete to see who can write the worst opening sentence of a novel that, God willing, will remain imaginary.

Through the years, the contest has become more and more elaborate, with categories and subcategories and “dishonorable mentions.” I thought I was going to write about the contest, but I find I’ve used up all the time I have reading this year’s winning entries and laughing maniacally.

Spend some time with the winners, and you’ll have favorites of your own. Perhaps it’s only because my nextdoor neighbor has become the proud owner of a genuine hot rod, but tonight my own personal favorite is this:

“Let’s see what this baby can do, Virgil,” said Wyatt, as he floored the Charger, brushing a Dart out of the way, sideswiping an oncoming Lancer, rear-ending a Diplomat, and demolishing a row of Rams before catapulting head-on into the sheriff’s Viper—realizing that we’d indeed missed the turn-off to Abilene and ended up instead, in Dodge City.
–>I want a space here, dammit!<–
Paul Curtis
Randburg, South Africa

2 Responses to “A Dark and Stormy Night”

  1. Cowtown Pattie Says:

    I swear when I posted my own Dark and Stormy, I didn’t know you’d blogged about the same thing. Red is the color of my true-love’s face, when she doesn’t visit bloggy friends more often…

    We on a wave length or what?

  2. Pete Says:

    Not to worry, Pattie! I’ve been a B-L Contest fan for years. Most people find it an acquired taste, but I love everything about it.

    Anyway, I repeated the Dodge City thing for you because I suspected you hadn’t seen it—and how could you resist it with those southwestern placenames?

    Pete

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