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Bulwer-Lytton 2010


Bulwer Lytton Prize for bad writing

This year’s Bulwer-Lytton Prize, the annual award for the worst opening sentence, has gone to Molly Ringle's comparison of a lovers' kiss with the sucking of a thirsty rodent:

‘For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss – a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.’

Ringle, the author of the published novel The Ghost Downstairs, in which the romance between a nurse and a houseboy is played out against growing paranormal activity, is the 28th winner of the contest. ‘I feel quite ridiculous. But there are definitely worse ways to get 15 minutes of fame.’

Given annually since 1982, the competition, sponsored by the English department at San Jose State University, is inspired by the melodramatic first line of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1830 novel Paul Clifford:

‘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.’

Contest judge Scott Rice, a professor at San Jose State University, praised Ringel's ‘outlandishly inappropriate comparison’ to the paper. ‘It is a send-up of writers who try too hard to be original, and it is a send-up of those revolting couples whose public displays of affection make them poster children for celibacy,’ he said.

The runner-up in this year's competition was Tom Wallace with:

‘Through the verdant plains of North Umbria walked Waylon Ogglethorpe and, as he walked, the clouds whispered his name, the birds of the air sang his praises, and the beasts of the fields from smallest to greatest said, 'There goes the most noble among men' – in other words, a typical stroll for a schizophrenic ventriloquist with delusions of grandeur.’

Molly Ringle’s website