Prose poseurs have a new clown prince.
Artie Kalemeris, of Fairfax, Va., won top honors Monday in the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, an annual tribute to wretched writing.
Mocking detective fiction conventions, he wrote:
“The moment he laid eyes on the lifeless body of the nude socialite sprawled across the bathroom floor, Detective Leary knew she had committed suicide by grasping the cap of the tamper-proof bottle, pushing down and twisting while she kept her thumb firmly pressed against the spot the arrow pointed to, until she hit the exact spot where the tab clicks into place….”
Kalemeris, 43, in charge of training and communications for a computer company, said he’s known for writing strange sendoffs for going-away parties. A friend read about the contest and talked him into entering.
“It’s not easy to write a bad sentence,” Kalemeris said immodestly.
The competition to write the worst opening to imaginary novels is named after Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, who began his 1830 novel “Paul Clifford” with the infamous opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
San Jose State English professor Scott Rice, who has run the contest for 16 years, said thanks in part to the Internet, entries doubled this year with a large international contingent from Australia, Canada and South Africa, and from as far away as China.
Each year there are inexplicable themes to the entries, and 1997 was no exception.
“We had a lot of retching for some reason, and there was a lot of Clinton stuff, most of it unprintable,” Rice said. “Animals were big, too.”
Rice said he plans to keep the contest going as long as the public can stand it.
And he assures professional writers there is something to be learned from bad prose.
“There are a lot of sacred cows out there to be gored,” said Rice, mashing a metaphor in classic Bulwer-Lytton style.