Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Flame and Fur, Fangs and Wicker

As we've seen, Lyttle-Lytton released their results recently, but so has the Big Boy of these competitions, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. The 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Best In Show is nautically-themed as well: "Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests."

Once a strong and respected genre, the seafaring novel seems to have fallen from favor with the literary illuminati. Or, maybe nautical authors are simply lacking in skill and quality; the lack of opportunities to actually crew a square-rigged ship may mean too much is left to the imagination. I mean, look at this other example I found online: "Here have I been unconsciously toiling, not pleasuring, - aye, and ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to windward, and with such nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale, my final jets were the strongest and fullest of trouble. What business have I with this pipe? This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapors among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I'll smoke no more - " I mean, who does this "Herman Melville" think he is, writing a book about whaling?

Alas, such dreck isn't acceptable to the Bulwer-Lytton contest; being previously-published, the B-L won't accept it. Both contests are parodies of horrible writing, which — as any parodist will tell you — requires nearly as much talent as being a novelist in entirety. B-L does recognize that horrible writing didn't stop in the 19th century with the original Bulwer-Lytton and that hack Melville: they happily show off some recent examples of the obfuscated and poorly done metaphors.

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