The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is the prestigious annual event that recognizes the year’s worst sentence. It’s named in honor of the novelist who penned these ironically immortal words:
“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.”
For next year’s award, I would nominate the Los Angeles Times’ Reed Johnson as the early odds-on-favorite—except that BL entries are opening sentences, not closing sentences, and the entrants actually intend to write badly; Johnson intended his writing on the alleged timelessness of some movies and the evanescence of others to be profound.
Behold this literary feather down the throat:
But when a movie speaks to the people, for the people, in a way that resonates now and in the years to come, it may stand a chance of not perishing from the earth.
For a payoff that breathtaking, Johnson needed an appropriate setup, which he crafted by stitching together these desultory thoughts:
It’s uncertain whether any of the current Oscar hopefuls will resonate in the memories of people watching them this fall and winter. “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,” Lincoln observed at Gettysburg, although he never actually utters those immortal words in “Lincoln.”
Thus did Reed Johnson prove that he’s no one-hit wonder when it comes to bad writing.
In fact, with all due respect, Cathy Bryant of Manchester, England has nothing on Reed Johnson. Here’s her winning entry in this year’s Bulwer-Lytton Contest:
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.
Please submit all entries for next year’s Reed Johnson Nonfiction Contest here. The eponymous Mr. Johnson has already won this year’s.