Monday, 21 November 2011

It was a dark and stormy night

I used to love reading 'Peanuts' by Charles M Schulz in the Daily Mail (I was just a kid, OK? It was my parents... I didn't know what I was doing.)

My favourite character was Snoopy, the wannabe novelist dog who, like me at the time, never got much past the first sentence of any great work of fiction he was writing.

Did you know his standard opening: 'It was a dark and stormy night' was written by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton at the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford?  I thought the name sounded familiar, and it is because of he annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for examples of really bad fiction.  Last year's winner is a fine example:

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

This passage must have been perilously close to being nominated for another much-loved literary award - the Bad Sex Award, the winning passages of which I found strangely erotic:
"like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her"
"He unbuttoned the front of her shirt and pulled it to the side so that her breast was uncovered, her nipple poking out, upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing the night"

  *blushes fetchingly and goes back to the cartoons...*  


  1. I used to love the 'Peanuts' cartoons! My Grandparents had the Daily Mail, it wasn't my fault either....

    Only you could get from 'Peanuts' to the Bad Sex Awards in the space of a few sentences.....

  2. I'm struggling to get past the cage-mounted water bottle - hot-water bottle? Taste of rubber? Demijohn? Screwtop?

    Sorry. Calm down, Tim.

  3. You're almost veering towards "The night was moist…" as in 'Throw Momma from the Train'.

  4. When you are struggling to get something wonderful published, don't you wonder how things like that ever manage to clamber out of the slush pile?

  5. Fabulous! Once a year with all my classes, we have a 'dark and stormy night' competition in which they have to write the most cliched, overused storyline whatsoever, with cliched images, dialogue, etc etc. They get it all out of their system this way, and it's great fun.

  6. I used to save the Peanuts cartoons from said paper - it wasn't my fault either, I was at boarding school.

  7. where's my comment gone? I left a great comment last night.... grrrr... *shakes fist* ... let's see - it went like this:

    Vicus: I know

    Martin: One thing lead to another... officer

    Tim: We ALL struggle with the cage mounted bottle. p.s.calm down

    'M': There is something terrible about the word 'moist' which scientists don't yet fully understand.

    Frances: But that is where all the hope comes from... doesn't it?

    Fran: Great idea! I might 'borrow' that.

    Hausfrau: Hello! We were young and easily led. Now we are old and no-one wants to lead us any more! 8-(