Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Every year San Jose State University holds an international literary parody contest. The competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night." Here are a few examples:

Emperor Wu liked cake, but not exploding cake!

The dawn blushed; not because it was embarrassed (that doesn’t even make sense), but because light bends funny.

His eyes were brown, although you wouldn't know it just by looking.

It happened exactly like this... well, maybe not exactly, but I'm fairly confident about the major points—not that I was there, though.

Jeremy didn't remember eating corn or, for that matter, wearing his good loafers.

Gwendolyn, a world-class mountaineer, summoned the last of her strength for one more heroic haul on the nylon strap (for she was, after so many failed attempts, dangerously close to exhaustion) and looked heavenward with resolve, aware that, in spite of her fatigue and anguish, she must breach the crevice in one well-coordinated movement, somehow cleave the smooth fissure with the flimsy synthetic strand even though she was chaffed raw by her repeated efforts, or more sensibly, just give the heave-ho to this new-fangled (and painfully small) Victoria's Secret thong and slip into her well-worn — and infinitely more roomy — knickers.

Fleur looked down her nose at Guilliame, something she was accomplished at, being six foot three in her stocking feet, and having one of those long French noses, not pert like Bridget Bardot's, but more like the one that Charles De Gaulle had when he was still alive and President of France and he wore that cap that was shaped like a little hatbox with a bill in the front to offset his nose, but it didn't work.

She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida - the pink ones, not the white ones - except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn't wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren't.

The dame sauntered silently into Rocco's office, but she didn't need to speak; the blood-soaked gown hugging her ample curves said it all: "I am a shipping heiress whose second husband was just murdered by Albanian assassins trying to blackmail me for my rare opal collection," or maybe, "Do you know a good dry cleaner?"

Darnell knew he was getting hung out to dry when the D.A. made him come clean by airing other people's dirty laundry; the plea deal was a new wrinkle and there were still issues to iron out, but he hoped it would all come out in the wash - otherwise he had folded like a cheap suit for nothing.

Warily-as if his hands were a green-bean casserole in a non-tempered glass dish that had just come out of the freezer, and the patient was an oven that had been preheating for a good 75 minutes at 450F-the surgeon slowly reached into the incision and groped for the bullet fragment in the pancreas, at last finding it nestled near one of the Islets of Langerhans like a small wrecked lifeboat foundered on a sandbar as it floated in the fog, adrift in the Sea of John's Innards.

Mortimer froze in his tracks; the rhythmic clicking on the stones of the path (well . . . not really a clicking sound so much as a kind of clinking sound, more like the noise made by shaking a charm bracelet filled with Disney characters to a salsa beat) made him suddenly realize he had forgotten to buckle one of his galoshes.



  1. I *love* that competition! Someday I'll (probably inadvertently) maybe even enter!

  2. Alison, you might just win with one of your exceptionally punny posts ; )