The windmills of her prose

“Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.”

Sue Fondrie, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh is the proud winner of this year’s Bulwer-Lytton contest for bad writing.

At 26 words, Fondrie’s submission was the shortest grand prize winner in contest history, proving “that bad writing need not be prolix, or even very wordy,” as the judges noted with repeated redundance.

The contest is named for Victorian novelist George Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who opened a novel:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

I read Bulwer-Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii earlier this year. It’s a fun book, though I did use my speed-reading skills in quite a few places.

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  1. Unlike most academic prose, this was deliberately bad.