American academic Sue Fondrie's disturbing description of thoughts like mutilated sparrows has been declared the worst sentence of the year.
Fondrie, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, beat an impressive display of terrible writing to win the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, named in honour of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1830 novel Paul Clifford and its much-quoted opening, "It was a dark and stormy night". Entrants to the prize are duly challenged to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.
The academic's submission to the prize , "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", makes her its 29th winner. Fondrie's sentence is the shortest winner in the prize's history, "proving that bad writing need not be prolix, or even very wordy", said organisers. Bulwer-Lytton's own sentence, "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", takes the opposite approach, running to 59 words.
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