Friday, February 5, 2010

Dark and Stormy Nights

Recently, a former student reminded me of a wonderfully funny contest sponsored by the English department at San Jose State.  It's the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest which, according to its website "challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels."

When I was teaching at Mater Dei High School, oh so long ago (1976-84), the faculty had a similar contest each year.  I dug around in my files and found a bunch of the entries.  They were hilarious.  Following are two which I wrote (I wrote several more, but these two are probably the best??? of my efforts.)  I'd love to share some of the material written by my former colleagues--exquisite descriptions of Louis XVI clocks, noisome vaults beneath turbid domes, death by guacamole--but who knows? maybe some of this stuff has already been published!  Don't want to break any copyright laws.  OK, here goes. 

I won a "cheap and tacky prize" with this one (apologies to former students who admired my high-mindedness):

Slowly he inserted three fingers, paused briefly to caress the dusky, firmly-rounded surface which presented itself so submissively to his touch, and then, mustering all his considerable force, thrust his entire manhood forward toward the long-contemplated goal, muttering almost incoherently as he reached the moment of ultimate release, "God damn, I really need to make this spare!"

This one is a bit long, but it gave me the chance to introduce one of my favorite "imaginary friends" to the world--Axel:

The bird feeder was empty again, a vaguely ominous and increasingly frequent occurrence which the befuddled and fretful Graziella found not a little vexatious in the midst of this, the most debilitating crisis she had traversed since that dolorous day two years before in New York when the elastic in her pantyhose had snapped apart like an over-fried onion ring just as she was leaving the Bronx Zoo Aviary on the cashmere-sheathed arm of her beloved Axel--a charming but, as it turned out, neurasthenic pre-Raphaelite who in mortal anguish at the sheer unseemliness of the sagging, rapidly-fraying nylon ensnaring his companion's hitherto unhobbled ankles, had spun about and fled precipitously toward the parakeet pavilion, abandoning her to the pitiless mockery of the milling crowd and inducing in her an emotional trauma from which she had not yet quite recovered (despite the therapeutic ornithology prescribed by Dr. Toucan) and which, she now rather biliously perceived, almost certainly lay at the root of her present insatiable cravings for breadcrumbs, beef tallow and cracked sunflower seeds.

Check out SJSU's winners at

1 comment:

  1. loving the blog, Mr. Kirkeby! I thought you'd appreciate these reactions--

    April - I laughed at both those stories. oh god.. I'm literary :(

    Meghana - I laughed nervously, out of fear that my empty room would judge me for not understanding the humor..