Several years ago I heard about the Bulwer-Lytton contest where people would submit their best worst opening lines for a novel. I decided to organize such a contest for our department at work, and I ended up winning. (And no, I didn’t do the judging. I actually felt pretty bad about winning my own contest.) My entry, probably the closest attempt I’ve made to writing fiction, went something like the following:
The blazing red sun slipped slowly behind the tree tops as the even more intensely red Porsche Carrera GT roared around the corners of the serpentine mountain road, its occupants squirming in anticipation of the hot tub at the end of the road, when suddenly the ample Pirellis lost their grip in the slime of an errant frog, launching the screaming vehicle over the edge of the ravine, the burning lust of the occupants suddenly quenched in the icy cold waters of the river below into which the car fell.
Isn’t that a wonderful blend of sex and horror? We could also throw in some mystery and romance if we knew that the frog had been purposely placed on the road by a loner named Throckmorton whose affections had been spurned by a woman of easy reputation named Gloria, who with her recently deceased transvestite brother had ….
Speaking of mixed genres, at the community book sale where I used to volunteer one of the primary tasks was to sort donated books into categories before putting them on the shelves. Usually deciding the category was pretty straightforward; a book is a biography, or history, or novel, etc. But sometimes it was a bit of a challenge trying to decide which category to put a particular book in because it could fit into any of two or three different categories. On occasion, at the end of a shift when we got tired or a bit slap happy we would have a bit of fun trying to come up with the most outrageous category that a book could conceivably fit into, or the greatest number of categories. Our recurring example was the book titled Bambi Goes Home which was obviously a children’s book, based on its title, format, and the illustrations. But couldn’t it also go into Wildlife? Forestry? Adventure? Geography? Adventure? Hunting? Domestic Arts? This then begs the question, of course, why Bambi wasn’t at home to begin with. Had he been at school? Then it could go in Education. Out getting a bit of exercise? Then Sport. Abducted? Then True Crime. Voting? Politics. You see how easy it would be to get carried away with this.
Then of course there were the strange book titles, which we kept in their own special section. My personal favorite was a textbook titled Algebra for Christian Schools. Obviously math works different in their world; it’s just so hard to count the loaves and fishes while they are quickly and miraculously multiplying.
There’s actually an annual prize for the book with the most off-the-wall title; it’s called the Diagram Prize and is awarded every year by the editors of “The Bookseller”, a British trade magazine. The prize goes to the published book with the oddest title. Recent winners include such books as Bombproof Your Horse, How to Avoid Huge Ships, Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes, Do-It-Yourself Brain Surgery, and The Gut Contents of Six Leathery Turtles. Scouts in Bondage, anyone?
There have been in the past few years a number of books published which are compilations of some of the winning titles (with pictures of the covers). These are interesting books, but spending fifteen or twenty bucks for something that ought to just be a web page isn’t so fun. However, I do intend to start collecting as many of these prize-winning books as I can find, or rather thanks to availability of most anything on Amazon, as many as I can afford to buy.