Anna Springfield of Raleigh, NC

One of my favorite things is the annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest for terrible first lines of novels.

This year, there was one writer who — in my opinion — out wrote all the other terrible writers. When I read these — admittedly truly heartstoppingly awful — sentences, I paused. I read them aloud. Wait a minute, I thought — that’s actually a really good writer masquerading as a bad writer.

I sent them to a writer friend and he wrote back: “She does everything correctly in the worst possible way. The thing is, these aren’t even bad sentences, really… What they manage to do is to set a high standard for themselves that they then fail to meet. They’re writer-bad.”

So: Do you exist, Anna Springfield of Raleigh, North Carolina? And, if so, what about your prose that isn’t trying to be purposefully awful?

Here they are, in their full glory:

1. “As she downed the last Dixie cup of Listerine and let every drop of its 21.6 percent alcohol content hit her like an icy mint anti-cavity brickbat, Karen squinted at the breasts dangling like two electrocuted ospreys from the powerline of her heart and, with a despondency born of a thousand nights spent gaining a decent skill level at internet mahjong, wondered how she and they had all three sunk so low.”


2. “Rosy lips aquiver, Lauren drizzled with tears the wave-tousled sands of Wampauset Municipal Area Public Access Beach, hearing in every shriek of shrike and plaint of plover the ancient wail–kreeAHH, kreeAHH!–of good women widowed by the sea, as well as tonal nuances indicating the shorebirds’ relative levels of copulative receptiveness, for our umber-eyed heroine is both lover and ornithologist.”

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