An infamous tongue-in-cheek contest to see who can come up with the worst starting line to a hypothetical book. It has been going on for decades already, and shows no sign of waning.

The contest was started by Professor Scott Rice, whose graduate school excavations unearthed the origins of the line "It was a dark and stormy night." Required to write a seminar paper on a minor Victorian novelist, he chose the man with the funny hyphenated name, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was best known for perpetrating 'The Last Days of Pompeii', and of course, 'Paul Clifford', whose famous opener has been plagiarized repeatedly by bad writers everywhere, and, of course, by Snoopy.

The Original 1983 Winner: The camel died quite suddenly on the second day, and Selena fretted sulkily and, buffing her already impeccable nails--not for the first time since the journey began--pondered snidely if this would dissolve into a vignette of minor inconveniences like all the other holidays spent with Basil. -- Gail Cain, San Francisco, California.

1999's winner: Through the gathering gloom of a late-October afternoon, along the greasy, cracked paving-stones slick from the sputum of the sky, Stanley Ruddlethorp wearily trudged up the hill from the cemetery where his wife, sister, brother, and three children were all buried, and forced open the door of his decaying house, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that was soon to devastate his life. -- Dr. David Chuter, Kingston, Surrey, ENGLAND

2010's winner: 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. -- Molly Ringle, Seattle, Washington.

You can find it Here. Yes, you can enter by e-mail...

Too much? You might want to check out the bite-sized Lyttle-Lytton Contest.

As far as I know, no E2er has yet won. We are due!

Penguin puts a series of books, all of which contain "a dark and stormy night" in the title, filled with entries of their yearly contest. Good reading, if only to appreciate how good "bad" writing can be.

1990's winner
Dolores breezed along the surface of her life like a flat stone forever skipping across smooth water, rippling reality sporadically but oblivious to it consistently, until she finally lost momentum, sank, and due to an overdose of fluoride as a child which caused her to lie forever on the floor of her life as useless as an appendix and as lonely as a five-hundred-pound barbell in a steroid-free fitness center.

The 2001 winner is Sela Kirk, a 44-year-old legal secretary in Vancouver, British Columbia with this stunning bit of wordplay:

"A small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona's ankles, causing her to reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea."

She received a pittance of $250 for her top prize.

The second-place entry, by Julie Stangeland of Seal Beach, Calif., also employed an animal theme:

"The lone monarch butterfly flew flutteringly through the cemetery, dancing on and glancing against headstone after headstone before alighting atop Willie Mitchell's already lowered casket, causing gasps of awe to fly from the open mouths of five or six lingering mourners, until a big shovelful of dirt landed on it and it died."

C'mon kids - we can do better than this!

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