I Lost the Bulwer-Lytton Contest

April 16th, 2022

Those of you who know me well are aware that I am someone who, when offered the opportunity to compete for something, will make a point of not doing so for fear that I will lose. I do not like to lose. I know, I know, usually the person who says that is some gravel-chewing cousin of General Patton who spits football metaphors in various directions, or the Monty Python knight for whom the loss of all four limbs is only a flesh wound. But in the face of defeat, you can do lots of things, and my choice is to give up.

I will say that this lends my life a welcome level of predictability. I never have to worry about suddenly achieving something that will upset my daily routine, like stardom or additional money or professional recognition. None of these things are worth it to me, since they will take time away from my devotion to reading cheesy mysteries, watching the Celtics, writing hilarious songs, and hanging out with my wife, She Who Must Be Taunted.

But I do have an Everest, and it is the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

For those of you somehow ignorant of this cultural gem, it is an homage to Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the infamous bad novelist responsible for the opening line of every novel Snoopy ever started: “It was a dark and stormy night”. The goal of the Bulwer-Lytton Contest is to write the opening line to the “worst novel never written”. And I am here to tell you, some of these things are hi-larious. And I have dreamed – in a manner that borders on the obscene – of climbing the mountain of the Bulwer-Lytton Contest and planting my flag on its apex.

So last year, I took my shot. I submitted two entries (you can submit as many as you want):

“She stood there, panting, like a zebra in heat, her spear as sharp as the fang of a baboon, wild mane of hair streaming behind her, and it only took Roderick a second to realize that this was not going to be another typical Wednesday at the New Rochelle Department of Motor Vehicles.”

“My father, enraged, struck a fearsome presence, mustache bristling, stentorian voice rattling the windows of the family mansion, fists like sledgehammers on the nearest available horizontal surface, so when I heard the pistol in the drawing room I could barely imagine the magnitude of his fury, him being dead and all.”

Now, I think you’ll have to agree that no one – no one – could have done this any better. But yet – and I know you’ll be shocked to hear this – I did not win. Here, for instance, is the winner of the Adventure category:

‘When I asked our novice Safari guide Guy Pommeroy to identify what that roaring sound was he replied (and these were his last words), “It sounds to me like someone with a bad case of bronchitis; I’ll check and be right back.”’

I don’t think we need to speculate any further on what happened here – obviously, the election was stolen. (Too soon?)

I will enter the Bulwer-Lytton Contest again. My Sherpa guides will march with me up the slopes, carrying my heavy bags of terrible puns and innuendo and references to the New Rochelle Department of Motor Vehicles, and we will prevail. Someday, I will stand atop my Everest, giggling madly because I think I’m the funniest person on the planet, and, at that moment, I may not be the funniest person on the planet, but I will definitely be the highest.

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