Description: Bulwer-Lytton 1997
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Prose poseurs have a new clown prince. Artie
Kalemeris, of Fairfax, Virginia, won top honors Monday in the Bulwer-Lytton
fiction contest, an annual tribute to wretched writing.
Mocking detective fiction conventions, he wrote: "The moment he laid eyes
on the lifeless body of the nude socialite sprawled across the bathroom
floor, Detective Leary knew she had committed suicide by grasping the cap
of the tamper-proof bottle, pushing down and twisting while she kept her
thumb firmly pressed against the spot the arrow pointed to, until she hit
the exact spot where the tab clicks into place..."
Kalemeris, 43, in charge of training and communications for a computer
company, said he's known for writing strange sendoffs for going-away
parties. A friend read about the contest and talked him into entering.
"It's not easy to write a bad sentence," Kalemeris said immodestly.
The competition to write the worst opening to imaginary novels is named
after Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, who began his
1830 novel "Paul Clifford" with the infamous opening line, "It was a dark
and stormy night."
San Jose State English professor Scott Rice, who has run the contest for
16 years, said thanks in part to the Internet, entries doubled this year
with a large international contingent from Australia, Canada and South
Africa, and from as far away as China.
Each year there are inexplicable themes to the entries, and 1997 was no
"We had a lot of retching for some reason, and there was a lot of Clinton
stuff, most of it unprintable," Rice said. "Animals were big, too."
Rice said he plans to keep the contest going as long as the public can
stand it. And he assures professional writers there is something to be
learned from bad prose.
"There are a lot of sacred cows out there to be gored," said Rice, mashing
a metaphor in classic Bulwer-Lytton style.
Copyright 1997 The Associated Press.